"These are war wounds."
Trigger Warning: This story contains distressing content and graphic description of injuries that may be disturbing to readers.
Dr. Roy Guerrero is the only pediatrician serving Uvalde, Texas, and he recently spoke about what it was like to treat the wounded victims of the Robb Elementary School shooting, according to TODAY.
"It was awful," Guerrero explained.
Recalling the severity of the injuries, he said, "It was a high-power rifle injury. Almost decapitation, to that level. Open chest wounds. These are war wounds. It's as if things exploded once the bullets hit the bodies."
Guerrero was born and raised in Uvalde as as a child, he attended Robb Elementary School. He recalled getting panic-stricken texts on the day when he was at lunch with his staff.
“I called the hospital, Uvalde Memorial, to ask if they needed me and they said, ‘Yes, get over here right now.'” Guerrero, a board-certified pediatric specialist who practices in Uvalde and San Antonio immediately rushed to the hospital.
"It was a complete madhouse — what you see in disaster movies," he shared. "Doctors and nurses in every single room; people running around like maniacs; kids in the hallway bleeding and screaming; surgeons working on kids. The most horrible part, I guess, was just seeing parents I knew outside screaming, asking me to look for their kids. You never really get that out of your head."
A gunman killed 19 children and 2 teachers at an elementary school in #Uvalde, Texas — the deadliest school shooting since Sandy Hook almost 10 years ago.— AJ+ (@ajplus) May 25, 2022
Most students at Robb Elementary School are ages 7-10.
It is at least the 27th school shooting in the U.S. of 2022. pic.twitter.com/6tTfxk1ox7
He lost five patients to the shooting and treated eight patients, four of who are his regular patients.
While making rounds in the hospital on the day of the shooting, he met an 11-year-old girl who he has treated since she was a newborn. She was in fourth grade. 19 of her classmates and two of her teachers were shot and killed. With injuries from bullet fragments in her shoulder, she told her mom and the doctor what she had witnessed inside her classroom.
“She said she saw people being shot and falling dead. Her best friend was next to her, so she grabbed some of her blood that was coming out of her, smeared it on herself and played dead on the floor,” he said. “As she’s doing this, her teacher ... who got shot and was throwing up blood, told her, ‘I don’t want to die, call 911’ and threw the phone to her. I guess the guy saw the phone and shot the phone, but didn’t see her move. So she continued to play dead.”
Next day, Guerrero saw she was in a bad condition. “She was literally shaking,” he explained. “She already has PTSD, and we just got out of this.”
Guerrero recalled that many other victims were showing signs of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after the shooting.
“In clinic the next day, all I heard was, ‘I’m afraid he’s coming for me. I’m afraid he’s going to come get me at my house.’ The kids were telling me that. I was hearing that the whole day,” he explained. “I’m telling you this is going to be a mental health crisis for our community.”
To everyone impacted by the horrific elementary school shooting in Uvalde, Texas: We grieve with you. We pray with you. We stand with you. And we’re committed to turning this pain into action. pic.twitter.com/TIYjdmfKVP— President Biden (@POTUS) May 29, 2022
Guerrero worries that the survivors will carry this fear and trauma for their lives and could even pass it down to their own children in the future.
“I don’t want them having that doubt in their mind, all the time, that the world is the same or worse, and that there’s nothing here to protect their children,” he explained. “That’s my biggest fear.”
The degree of the injuries differed from some suffering minor cuts and bruises to others who were more severely injured. However, seeing a familiar face brought them some relief. "The children were in hysterics at first," he said. "But when they saw a familiar face — because I've known them for so long — I was able to calm them down. I told them I would be here until it was over and that I was going to call their mom."
The doctor mentions he feels protective of his 3,000 patients he treats in the Uvalde area. "The second I start taking care of a kid, they're my kid," he added. "What people don't realize is that I have 3,000 babies — and that day, I lost some of them."
"I lost it for a little while," he said. "And that's OK, but I told myself to get it together. I have to take care of the rest of these kids. I can't lose myself," said Guerrero as he grieved.
No matter what it takes, Guerrero is prepared to be there for his community. "There's an anger in everyone," he said. "Something is different this time. We seem to care about a shooting for two weeks, then sweep it under the rug. Not this time. The community has enough momentum and energy behind it that I think something is going to happen this time."
If you’re struggling to cope with grief, and need help, please reach out to Crisis response at 1-800-203-CARE (2273)
Cover Image Source: Getty Images | Photo by Michael M. Santiago