Emergencies happen anywhere and anytime, and sometimes, medical professionals find themselves in situations where they are the only ones who can help. Is There a Doctor in the House? is a Medscape Medical News series telling these stories.
Bill Madden, MD: It was a Saturday in October of 1996. I had gone to my favorite plant nursery in Tucson with my wife, Beth, and two of my kids, Zach and Katya, who were 9 years old. I went to the back of the nursery to use the bathroom, and I heard two of the workers yelling at each other. The tone was angry.
I went back up to the front, and Zach said that he was bored. He asked if he could go to the car and get a book, so I gave him my car keys and told him to be careful crossing the street.
Ron Quintia, DDS: It was late in the afternoon, probably close to 4 PM. I was also at the nursery picking up some plants.
The noise came out of nowhere. Boom! Boom! Boom! I thought, Wow, that sounds like a gun. But no, it can’t be a gun. This is a plant nursery.
BM: When I heard the rounds being fired, I knew what that sound meant. I was in the Army for 20 years doing critical care for kids.
I turned and a young man came running toward me out of the sun. It was hard to see, but I realized a second guy was running about 10 feet behind him. Both men were screaming.
My wife was about 10 feet away behind a raised planter with Katya. I yelled for them to get down as I dove for the ground.
The first guy, a young Hispanic man, tried to escape through some bushes. But the shooter was catching up. I recognized him. He was from Ethiopia and worked at the nursery. I had talked to him a week earlier about his life; he used to be a farmer.
Now, he was holding a 9-mm automatic — silver, very shiny. He shot the Hispanic man twice in the chest. Then he ran toward the back of the nursery.
RQ: When I realized what was happening, I crouched down, so I couldn’t see very much. But I heard someone screaming, “He has a gun! He has a gun!” And then I heard more shots.
BM: I yelled at my wife, “Get out!” Then I ran for the phone at the kiosk desk to call 911. This was before most people had cell phones. But the phone was hooked up to the paging system for the nursery, and I couldn’t get it to work. I turned and ran for the wounded man.
RQ: I got to the victim first. Both lungs had been hit, and I could hear he had sucking chest wounds. He was bleeding out of his mouth, saying, “I’m going to die. I’m going to die.” I told him, “You’re not going to die,” while thinking to myself, He’s going to die.
BM: I had never met Ron before, but we started working on the patient together. Both of his lungs were collapsing. With sucking chest wounds, the critical issue is to seal up the holes. So normally, you slap a Vaseline dressing on and tape it up real good. But obviously, we didn’t have anything.
Ron and I took off our shirts and used them to bandage the man’s chest. He wasn’t looking good, starting to turn blue. He was dying. We were yelling for someone to call an ambulance.
And then suddenly, the shooter was back. He was standing there yelling at us to leave so he could kill the man we were helping. The 9-mil was in his hand, ready to fire. He kept screaming, “I’m not a monkey! I’m not a monkey!”
RQ: The guy was less than 10 feet from us, and we were facing down this gun that looked like a cannon. I thought, This is it. It’s curtains. I’m going to die. We’re all going to die.
BM: I had decided I would die too. I wasn’t frightened though. It’s hard to explain. Dying was okay because I’d gotten my family away. I just had to stay alive as long as I could in order to provide for the victim.
It’s what I signed up for when I chose to be a doc — to do whatever was needed. And if I got killed in the process, that was just part of the story. So we started talking to the shooter.
I said, “No, you’re not a monkey. You’re a man, a human being. It’s okay.” We pleaded with him to put the weapon down and not to shoot. We did not leave the patient. Finally, the shooter ran off toward the back of the nursery.
RQ: About 30 seconds after that, we heard two more shots from that direction.
Then there were sirens, and the place was suddenly crawling with police. The paramedics came and took over. I got up and got out of the way.
BM: A young woman ran up, her mouth covered with blood. She said that there was another victim in the back. I asked a police officer to go with us to check. We started for the back when suddenly, we heard yelling and many rounds being fired. The officer ran in the direction of the shooting.
The woman and I kept walking through rows of plants and trees. It was like moving through a jungle. Finally, we reached the other victim, an American Indian man, lying on his back. He had a chest wound and a head wound. No respirations. No radial pulse. No carotid pulse. I pronounced him dead.
Then I heard a voice calling for help. There were two women hiding nearby in the bushes. I led them to where the police cars were.
Another officer came over and told me that they had the shooter. The police had shot him in the leg and arrested him.
RQ: The police kept us there for quite some time. Meanwhile, the TV crews arrived. I had a black Toyota 4Runner at the time. My family was home watching the news, and a bulletin came on about a shooting in Midtown. The camera panned around the area, and my wife saw our car on the street! They were all worried until I could call and let them know that I was okay.
BM: As we waited, the sun went down, and I was getting cold. My shirt was a bloody mess. Ron and I just sat there quietly, not saying a whole heck of a lot.
Finally, an officer took our statements, a detective interviewed us, and they let us leave. I called Beth, and she and the kids came and got me.
At home, we talked to the kids, letting them express their fears. We put them to bed. I didn’t sleep that night.
RQ: I can’t describe how weird it was going home with this guy’s blood on my body. Needing to take a bath. Trying to get rid of the stench of what could have been a brutal killing. But it wasn’t. At least, not for our patient.
Thankfully, there are three hospitals within a stone’s throw of the nursery. The paramedics got the man we helped to Tucson Medical Center and into the OR immediately. Then the general surgeons could get chest tubes in him to reinflate his lungs.
BM: The doctor who treated him called me later. He said that when they put the chest tubes in, they got a liter and a half of blood out of him. If it had taken another 10 minutes or so to get there, he very likely would’ve been dead on arrival in the emergency room.
RQ: I checked on him at the hospital the next day, and he was doing okay. That was the last time I saw him.
I only saw the shooter again in court. Dr Madden and I were both called as witnesses at his trial. He was tried for capital murder and 12 charges of aggravated assault for every person who was at the nursery. He was found guilty on all of them and sentenced to 35 years to life in prison.
BM: I didn’t think the shooter was very well represented in court. It’s not that he didn’t kill one person and critically wound another. He did and he deserves to be punished for that. But his story wasn’t told.
I knew that during the civil war in Ethiopia, his family had been killed by Cuban soldiers sent there to help the pro-communist government. In a way, I thought of him as two different people: the shooter and the farmer. They are both in prison, but only one of them deserves to be there.
After it happened, I wanted to visit the farmer in the hospital and tell him that, despite what he had done, he was not alone. Our family cared about him. The police wouldn’t let me see him, so I asked the Catholic chaplain of the hospital to go. He gave him my message: that despite all the sorrow and pain, in some distant way, I understood. I respected him as a human being. And I was praying for him.
RQ: It’s safe to say that the experience will affect me forever. For months, even years afterward, if somebody would ask me about what happened, I would start to cry. I would sit in the parking lot of my favorite running trail and worry about the people driving in. If I heard a car backfire, I thought about gunshots.
It was terrifying. And thank God I’ve never found myself in that position again. But I suspect I’d probably react the same way. This is our calling. It’s what we do — protecting other people and taking care of them.
BM: I’d always wondered what I would do in a situation like this. I knew I could function in a critical care situation, a child in a hospital or in the back of an ambulance. But could I do it when my own life was threatened? I found out that I could, and that was really important to me.
RQ: It was one of those great lessons in life. You realize how lucky you are and that your life can be snatched away from you in a millisecond. I went to a nursery to buy plants for my yard, and instead I ended up helping to save a life.
Bill Madden, MD, is a retired US Army colonel and pediatrician, formerly an associate professor of Clinical Pediatrics at the College of Medicine of the University of Arizona, Tucson.
Ron Quintia, DDS, is an oral and maxillofacial surgeon at Southern Arizona Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery in Tucson, Arizona.
Source link : https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/two-doctors-face-down-gunman-while-saving-his-victim-2024a10002v2?src=rss
Publish date : 2024-02-08 17:32:30
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