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Bloody Weekend Tests Tampa General’s Trauma Team

TAMPA - The gunshots and vehicle crashes that buffeted Tampa over the weekend reverberated in Tampa General Hospital's Trauma Center, which was slammed with critically injured patients. Between Friday night and Sunday afternoon, 10 people, including two teenagers and four victims younger than 12 were treated in the center.

Four of the 10 had injuries that ultimately proved fatal. Several others are still in critical or serious condition.

The emergency spree began with an 11-year-old girl who was struck by a hit-and-run driver Friday night and continued with a pair of teenagers Saturday night who were treated by the same staff. On Sunday, a vehicle wreck sent five family members to the trauma center, including a 5-month-old girl who died. Her two brothers, both under 10, were admitted in critical condition. They later were updated to good condition.

Since 10 p.m. Friday through Sunday afternoon, the Tampa General's trauma center opened its doors to these cases:

The 11-year-old girl who was struck by a van on North 15th Street at Osborne Avenue while riding her bicycle just before 10 p.m. Friday. Natalia Leonard was dragged for two blocks by the driver who left the scene. The driver was arrested a day later. Natalia died

That's 10 victims of extreme trauma in less than 48 hours.

Tampa General's trauma center treats critically ill and injured adults and children. It has six trauma rooms, one dedicated to pediatric patients, according to the hospital's website. There are 66 treatment rooms and two operating rooms.

It's organized chaos, said Heidi Dilworth, a clinical operations team leader for Tampa General. She has worked in the emergency room for a dozen years; before that she was a paramedic for six years in Michigan.

When severely injured people start to roll into the trauma center, like they did this weekend, the tension is high, she said, but not unexpected.

This is what our nurses and physicians prepare for, she said. They all know what's expected of them.

It always is the pediatric patients, though, that get to people, even seasoned emergency medical staff members.

We're trained to do the job, she said. We're all medical professionals. But the pediatric patients, they kind of tug at your heart strings. They are just children, innocent. They can't say where they hurt.

Dunn said the overall number of people treated in the emergency area of the hospital didn't spike much this weekend, but the number rushed in because of life-threatening injuries - particularly children - was unusually high.

That can pull at the emotions of the center's nurses, doctors and attendants.

It took its toll on some of the staff, Dunn said. It was unusual in that respect. There were a lot of cases involving children and families.

Even for those who see emergencies all the time, he said, it was disturbing.

We have a whole process in place where we offer counseling, Dunn said, including wellness and pastoral programs.

Often, just sitting down and hashing it out helps deal with the stress, he said

Just talking over a cup of coffee, he said, gives them the opportunity to deal with those things.

kmorelli@tampatrib.com

(813) 259-7760



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