Dr. Alan Tyroch Testifies to Lawmakers About Aug. 3 Mass Shooting
The Texas Senate Select Committee on Mass Violence Prevention and Community Safety met at the University of Texas at El Paso on Monday, Oct. 21, to hear testimony from community members impacted by the Aug. 3 mass shooting at the Walmart in East-Central El Paso.
Twenty-two people were killed and more than two dozen injured in one of the deadliest incidents of gun violence in Texas and U.S. history. Community members invited to testify before the committee included elected officials, the father of a victim, and Alan Tyroch, M.D., professor and chair of surgery at TTUHSC El Paso’s Paul L. Foster School of Medicine and surgery chair for Texas Tech Physicians of El Paso.
Dr. Tyroch, chief of surgery and trauma medical director at University Medical Center of El Paso (UMC), testified about what the hospital’s emergency teams — from surgeons and physicians to other health care providers — faced that day and the continuing psychological effects of the incident on all involved.
“UMC received 14 victims in 34 minutes, with four patients in the operating (room) very quickly, and we were simultaneously operating,” he said. “We did a total of seven surgeries that day. We were done by that afternoon. That’s how most shooting events occur. It happens quick, it’s over quick, and then you have all the other events. They’re all sort of predictable to an extent.
“Unfortunately, we lost one patient, a young mother, that afternoon from a lethal injury,” he said. “We did three more surgeries the next day.”
Dr. Tyroch said he told UMC President and CEO Jacob Cintron and TTUHSC El Paso President Richard Lange, M.D., M.B.A., “We’ve got to take care of our own because (post-traumatic stress disorder) is a real thing.”
“It’s going to happen,” Dr. Tyroch said of PTSD in the wake of the Aug. 3 tragedy. He compared it to the aftermath of the 2016 Orlando nightclub mass shooting that resulted in 49 fatalities and 53 wounded, as well as other recent active shooter incidents.
“In regard to the Orlando active shooter incident, there is an excellent research publication on the impact of PTSD on surgery residents: 30% of those residents, at three months, had PTSD,” Dr. Tyroch told the committee. “Seven months later, 30% still had PTSD. Maybe not the same people, but other ones. It affects first responders and health care providers — every one of us.”
Immediately following the shooting, UMC and its community partner, Emergence Health Network, set up onsite counseling services for anyone at UMC, particularly first responders, to get help. That assistance was also immediately available onsite for UMC and its partners at the campus for weeks following the event.
Anytime, unexpectedly, a trivial event can trigger an emotional response to the shooting, he explained.
“You don’t know when it’s going to happen,” Dr. Tyroch said. “It can just hit you out of the blue. It hit me out of the blue that Sunday when I saw ‘El Paso Strong’ going down I-10. ‘Oh my God, it’s us,’” he recalled thinking. “It hit home.”
Dr. Tyroch recently expanded upon his experience with the Aug. 3 shooting on “When It Mattered,” a podcast that focuses on leaders and how they learn from adversity. The episode featuring Dr. Tyroch is available for streaming or download at goodstory.io/2019/10/21/dr-alan-tyroch/.