DALLAS (CBS11) – After a sniper fired on police officers in downtown Dallas last Thursday night, Parkland Hospital entered the national spotlight once again, just as it did more than 50 years ago, when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated.
Four days later, doctors, nurses, and the Dallas County Hospital District’s police department showed pride in the staff coming together, and displayed emotion and anger about the tragedy that night.
Paramedics rushed seven officers to Parkland.
Some of them didn’t survive surgery.
Doctors like Todd Minshall, Chief of Surgical Critical Care, say they were dealt the worst of situations, but in trying to save lives, they saw the very best. “So many people who had come here to try and help and take care of people. I was in awe. It was truly an amazing scene. I came back over around 4:00 a.m. when an honor guard was there and there was still just as many .. we had to move our cars out of the way to be able to take the bodies. It was a mix of emotions at that point. All of what had happened still weighing on our souls. The overwhelming support that was there was pretty amazing.”
Captain Dan Birbeck of the Dallas County Hospital District police department says he’s been in law enforcement for 20 years. “This is the worst thing I’ve seen come through here. It’s shaken us. Shaken me to the core. We all have a lot of healing to do. It’s hard. One of the toughest things I’ve ever had to do was stand outside the rooms of those fallen guys providing security detail and then taking them out to be transferred to the medical examiner’s office through the line of officers paying respect to their fallen comrades.”
Parkland Hospital is the community hospital for Dallas County — and has become one for all of North Texas.
It’s one of the level one trauma centers in Dallas, which sees the most serious medical cases.
Thursday night proved no different.
At the time of Thursday night’s sniper attack, Parkland’s ER already had 300 patients.
Even after the officers arrived for treatment, the hospital still took in an additional 134 patients.
Surgeons who don’t normally work in the ER came over to help, along with nurses and other staffers.
Not once that night, did they divert patients to another hospital.
Dr. Alexander Eastman is the medical director of the trauma center who also serves as a Dallas SWAT officer, and he took pride in his hospital’s mission. “In the last three years, we haven’t spent one minute on trauma divert. We’re open continuously through everything that struck this community the last three years. Ebola. Mass shootings. Flooding. Chaos. Mayhem. Whatever. The doors don’t close here. We take that seriously as the safety net in this community.”
Dr. Eastman says their training has made them ready for the horror they saw Thursday night.
The trauma surgeon in charge Thursday night, Dr. Brian Williams, became emotional during the news conference, not just about the officers whose lives he tried to save, but about race and what’s become an issue nationwide. “The preceding victims of more black men dying at the hands of police officers affected me. I fit that demographic of individuals but abhor what’s been done to these officers and I grieve with their families. I understand the anger and the frustration and distrust of law enforcement, but they are not the problem. The problem is the lack of open discussions about the impact of race relations in this country. I think about it every day that I was unable to save those cops when they came here that night. It weighs on my mind constantly. This killing, it has to stop.”
(©2016 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)
Follow Jack on Twitter: @cbs11jack