THE FIGHT FOR THEIR LIVES

AT THE PRE­CISE MO­MENT THAT GUN­MAN KIMVEER GILL be­gan his shoot­ing ram­page at Daw­son Col­lege on Sept. 13, the emer­gency room of the Mon­treal Gen­eral Hospi­tal was packed with pa­tients.

Montreal Gazette - - Comment montreal diary opinion - Story by AARON DERFEL Gazette Health Re­porter

There were 40 peo­ple ly­ing on stretch­ers for var­i­ous ail­ments, some in the hall­ways. The wait­ing room was full. A cy­clist who had been hit by a car was in the ad­ja­cent trauma bay be­ing patched up by doc­tors. So was an­other pa­tient who had taken a bad fall.

The Mon­treal Gen­eral, an im­pos­ing com­plex of brick build­ings over­look­ing down­town, has one of the city’s busiest ERs. It also dou­bles as a Level 3 trauma cen­tre, spe­cial­iz­ing in sav­ing the lives of those with the most life-threat­en­ing in­juries.

Anne Thomas, the 64-year-old nurse man­ager of the ER, was strid­ing through the acute-care sec­tion near the end of the lunch hour when one of her nurses called out to her.

“Ur­gences Santé is on the phone,” Julie Ro­bidoux said, hold­ing the re­ceiver. “There’s a shoot­ing at Daw­son Col­lege. They have three pa­tients for us now, and a pos­si­bil­ity of five more. How many can I take?”

“Just tell them to send as many as pos­si­ble,” Thomas replied, re­fer­ring to the ambu- lance paramedics. “Just tell them to keep send­ing them.”

It was 12:57 p.m. – 16 min­utes af­ter the start of the shoot­ing spree that would trig­ger the largest trauma re­sponse in the his­tory of the Mon­treal Gen­eral.

Thomas – a vet­eran of an­other school shoot­ing, the 1989 École Polytech­nique mas­sacre – wanted to de­clare a Code Orange, sig­nalling an ex­ter­nal dis­as­ter. It’s the high­est alert.

Hospi­tal rules, how­ever, dic­tate that only a doc­tor – and not an ER nurse man­ager – can ac­ti­vate a Code Orange, so the alert was not of­fi­cially broad­cast on loud­speak­ers un­til 1:12 p.m.

Still, Thomas didn’t let the rules get in the way of pre­par­ing for a dis­as­ter, and she de­clared a trauma sit­u­a­tion. She or­dered her as­sis­tant nurse man­ager, Caro­line McDon­ald, to move as many pa­tients as pos­si­ble out of the ER and into rooms on the floors above. Three were trans­ferred to the ER of the nearby Royal Vic­to­ria Hospi­tal.

Thomas scur­ried over to the trauma bay, a spa­cious room with over­head X-ray ma­chines hang­ing from the ceil­ing. It was de­signed to ac­com­mo­date up to three pa­tients. Thomas in­formed the nurses of the shoot­ings.

They were in the process of mov­ing out the two trauma pa­tients when they heard the scream of sirens as am­bu­lances sped up Côte des Neiges Rd.

At around 1:02 p.m. – only five min­utes af­ter Ur­gences Santé first called – 22-year-old Les­lie Markof­sky ar­rived by am­bu­lance. He was un­con­scious, hav­ing been shot twice in the head. Or­der­lies shifted his body onto a hospi­tal gur­ney and wheeled him into the trauma bay that had just been cleared.

Markof­sky, tall and broad-shoul­dered, had dropped by Daw­son that day for a lunch­hour pizza party. He had grad­u­ated from Daw­son in the spring and was study­ing at the John Mol­son School of Busi­ness at Con­cor­dia Univer­sity.

PIERRE OBENDRAUF THE GAZETTE

Sur­geon Kosar Kh­waja checks on Jes­sica Al­bert.

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