Treating the Wounded

Rampage Strains Area Hospitals

By Candace Rondeaux, Jackie Spinner and Debbi Wilgoren
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, April 17, 2007; 9:26 AM

BLACKSBURG, Va., April 17 -- Four hospitals in this rural area of southwestern Virginia were swamped Monday after the Virginia Tech shooting rampage sent more than two dozen victims to emergency rooms, with the first arriving here at a regional medical center about 7:30 a.m.

"I don't know if you can ever be prepared for this type of violence," Scott Hill, chief executive officer of Montgomery Regional Hospital, said Monday night.

Hill said that extra nurses and an additional surgeon were called in to help treat more than a dozen patients sent to the 146-bed hospital.

"We certainly had a lot of patients and extra help to deal with the situation," Hill said. "We were in constant communication with police, so we knew what was coming."

Hospital officials kept friends and family members sequestered away from the news media.

As of Tuesday morning at Montgomery Regional, nine victims remained hospitalized but all were in stable condition, Hill said in a televised news briefing. Several of the patients had been upgraded from critical condition overnight.

At Lewis-Gale Medical Center in Salem, which has 521 beds, five injured people were being treated Monday, spokeswoman Carol Chappell said. Four were students and one a faculty member. Hill, who is also chief executive for Lewis-Gale, said two patients were discharged from there by this morning. Three patients remained, all upgraded to stable condition, Hill told reporters.

At Carilion New River Medical Center in nearby Radford, three patients brought from the campus yesterday were in all in good condition this morning, spokesman Eric Earnhart said. But two victims at Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital in Roanoke remained in critical condition, said Earnhart, also a spokesman there. A third patient who was brought to Memorial hospital yesterday was among the victims who died in the rampage, Earnhart said.

William Brady, an emergency medicine professor at the University of Virginia, said that the total number of gunshot wounds would swamp any hospital, especially those in rural areas with limited resources.

"If it's a single hospital or two hospitals, it could certainly paralyze the hospital," he said. "It can really slow a hospital down." He said gunshot wounds pose special challenges. "Certainly, someone could have a gunshot wound to the shoulder and recover," he said. "On the other hand, a single shot to the heart or chest or lungs could lead to difficulties."

Rondeaux reported from Blacksburg; Spinner and Wilgoren reported from Washington.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company