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Trauma Nurse At Sunrise: "It Was Horrific"

(AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

Investigators work the scene Monday, Oct. 2, 2017, after a mass shooting at a music festival near the Mandalay Bay resort and casino on the Las Vegas Strip on Sunday in Las Vegas.

Ashley Juste last worked at Sunrise Hospital in December. She was there for six years, working in the Trauma Center, then Trauma ICU, then ended up as a house supervisor.

After getting her nurse practitioner degree, she decided she needed to gain experience in private practice.

On the night of October 1,  Juste texted a friend who was at Sunrise. The answer that came back was, "There's blood and bodies everywhere."

Juste left her home, went to her old hospital and pitched in.

“The first thing that I saw was a security guard on watch and in the corner, there were about 20 gurneys of people that had been deceased,” she said.

After moving past that hallway, she made her way to the trauma center where she immediately started helping patients. Juste said she went room to room doing what she could, dressing someone's wound, getting a patient hooked up to an IV of fluids, providing pain medication.

While Juste did what she could, the overwhelming number of injured people made it impossible to perform the kind of resuscitation efforts the medical staff normally does.

“We didn’t have that time or opportunity for some of these people," she said, "It just kind of haunts us.”

She said the trauma center at Sunrise has about 35 beds but there is room for about 75 patients. But, on October 1, hallways were filled to capacity, rooms had more than one patient in them, and hospital administration came in to help.

“I have never seen so many people scared, injured, so much blood," she said, "It was like something out of a horror movie or war movie. It’s just not something you expect to see.”

Juste said the amount of blood on the floors was unbelievable. She said staff had to put on botties to stop themselves from slipping in it. 

It was chaotic, she said. But it was also run well with Dr. Kevin Menes working like a general on a battlefield. The hospital never diverted and never closed its doors.

“I think that’s a big part of the moral cloth of the staff that is there,” Juste said.

And while Juste and others raced to help the injured, the injured themselves often deferred their treatment to other people they thought were more seriously hurt.

Juste said the survivors also asked about their family and their friends, pulling out cell phones to show her pictures and to ask if she had seen them, but often she couldn't answer.

"People in the waiting room trying to show you pictures of a family member and ask you ‘have you seen this person,’" she said, "Some of these patients are disfigured that you can’t... identify them."

That she said, was one of worst things she had to deal with.

But in one instance, just as a man she was helping was showing her pictures of his girlfriend and he was asking if she had seen her, a gurney passed with his girlfriend on it and she was going to be okay.

“That’s what people were concerned about their family members,” she said.

And now, several days after she jumped in to help, Juste is talking with friends and colleagues at Sunrise Hospital about what happened and that is helping. 

But she is struck with the thought of why: 

“I just can’t believe that someone has the capacity to perform something so horrendous.”

She did get to visit some of the people she helped that night who are still in the hospital and they are going to be okay that has given her some comfort.

Ashley Juste, nurse practitioner, Sunrise Hospital Trauma Center

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(EDITOR'S NOTE: Carrie Kaufman no longer works for KNPR News. She left in April 2018)