MCH surgeon recounts hours after mass shooting

Local News

"For someone to kill them for just insanity, it's a real tragedy for this community."

ODESSA, Texas (BIG2/FOX24) – “People from west texas are really the best people, and so for someone to kill them for just insanity, is a real tragedy for this community.”

It was a typical day in the operation room. Orthopedic surgeon, Benjamin Cunningham, was on-call for trauma, performing surgery when he got the news.

“We quickly had a discussion and prioritized which patients might go first. We obviously want to save people’s lives first and then try and save their arms and legs if we can,” said Cunningham.

He says medical center hospital ranks 5th in the state as one of the busiest trauma centers. While he has seen plenty of busy days in the ER, he has never seen anything like this during his 20-year long career.

“The distinction is that everything was hyper-critical,” explained Cunningham. “So every patient to a majority, most of them were severely damaged.”

The lives of about 24 people now in the hands of Cunningham and the medical team. The day’s chaotic timeline called for all hands on deck.

“Everyone acted and responded in way that was fantastic. There were so many people came into help, that it made things a lot easier for me, and they did that because they care,” stated Cunningham.

Cunningham says the key to success was communication, and everyone pulling their weight.

“It’s like a symphony or something. You know, I don’t know what the oboe player is doing or the bass drum, but I’m playing the violin and it all comes together. And someone from the outside can see that it worked really well.”

With continuous hours of operations, he says adrenaline was the team’s saving grace. And in the days following the tragedy, everyone coped in different ways.

“There’s not much you can do to necessarily stop bad things, but at least there’s a way that you can act and take action and make the world better… And I think that’s probably the therapeutic component as a physician, or nurse, or PA. That’s probably how we deal with it,” explained Cunningham.

But he says even amongst all the chaos., West Texan’s resilience and selflessness shined bright.

“You know, it’s very dramatic, I think, when you go there. I mean, the police officer who had his eye shot, all he cared about were his friends and other people, and how they were doing. That’s all he talked about. And he’s is very thankful, but I’m very thankful for him.” 

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