As Toronto's only downtown adult trauma centre, St. Michael’s Emergency Department receives nearly 80,000 patients every year, but the evening of Sunday, July 22 was particularly tough.
The gun shots that rang out on the Danforth, a busy and popular street, left two people dead: 18-year-old Reese Fallon and 10-year-old Julianna Kozis. The shooter, Faisal Hussain, injured 13 other before taking his own life.
The first responders on the scene and the health professionals and community partners across the system responded quickly and showed immense grace under pressure. Five of the victims were brought to St. Michael’s Slaight Family Emergency Department where a code orange was called: mass casualties.
Mass shootings are rare in Toronto but the St. Michael’s trauma team was ready. Doctors, nurses, social workers and a chaplain were waiting in the trauma bay, a room large enough to handle multiple victims.
Trauma surgeons Dr. Najma Ahmed and Bernard Lawless raced in from home. Gunshot wounds are particularly unpredictable depending on the distance of the shot, the entry point of the bullet, the organs affected and whether or not the bullet exited the body. In these cases, time is an enemy.
Three of the victims needed emergency surgery. It was Monday morning before our surgeons were done operating.
It takes a special set of skills and temperament to be a trauma surgeon and Dr. Ahmed is one of our very best. She chose trauma surgery because she wanted to be in the room when lives were being saved.
Our city has had some time to reflect and recover from one of the worst mass shootings Canada has ever seen. We can be grateful that during this tragic time, the citizens of this city pulled together and our health-care professionals performed their duties with the compassion and expertise we’re known for. And it is a testament to our community of volunteers and donors that our experts have the support they need to ensure all our patients, in every case, get the care they deserve.
Further reading: CBC News profile of Dr. Najma Ahmed