Dr. Hanane Barakat, Clinical Assistant Professor of Anesthesiology/Assistant CMO for Quality and Accreditation/Clerkship Director
A friend of mine was among those severely injured.
It was 6.23 p.m. In the middle of recovering from the shock of hearing devastation in my home and making sure that there were no injuries from broken glass and bent windows, I could not ignore, by reflex, the beep on my phone requesting all staff to report to the hospital for Disaster Emergency Code.
It took me less than 10 seconds to grab my keys and rush to the hospital not knowing what to expect, what had happened, and whether it was safe to be on the road to begin with. A 10 minutes’ drive under normal circumstances took an hour. The calamities I saw on the road prepared me to expect the worst on arrival.
The hallways from the parking lot to the operating room were stained with blood and the people at the hospital, despite their horrific injuries, were strangely calm.
It is in the psychology of the brain to surpass the feeling of pain with the sense of shock. It is a defense mechanism that was used up to the maximum by everyone involved, be it patients or physicians. We attended to more than 500 casualties. We saw people in the emergency room, hallways, rooms, and at times performed two to three procedures and the same time in the same operating theater – something I never thought possible.
The heroic effort by the hospital staff was exemplary and the understanding of many patients who were sidelined to allow priority attendance to major/critical injuries was impressive.
A friend of mine was among those severely injured. While checking on the patients lined up in the hallway to assess who was next for surgery, I did not recognize her, nor did she recognize me. She stopped me as I passed by her to ask if Dr. Hanane was there. Not until after we talked did we recognize each other. At that point, I realized that this event had affected everyone and not just people I didn’t know. At that point, I wondered how many relatives or friends were being helped by other physicians in other institutions.
The hours stretched to the next morning. We learned how to use the knowledge and wisdom we acquired throughout the years, but we also started working on implementing several protocols to better handle similar situations, hoping that we will never have to use them.