16 injured students begin to recover

February 15, 2008 3:50:50 PM PST
It was around 4 p.m. Thursday that the first patient arrived at Kishwaukee Community Hospital. Twenty-four hours later, hospital staff have had the chance to analyze how they responded to such a crisis, and they say their emergency response plan was carried out just as they had practiced.

"It's going to take a while for all of this to actually sink in for us," said Dr. Michael Kulisz, Kishwaukee Community Hospital.

At the time, 18 people were transported to Kishwaukee hospital, and the staff was already prepared to efficiently treat each patient.

"Even though there could be a single injury, you need to be able to move resources very rapidly," said Kulisz.

Additional staff was called in to help, from surgeons to housekeepers. There were extra physicians in the E.R. who used portable x-rays to evaluate each person. Doctors say they were all injured with buckshot pellets that caused several minor, as well as complex injuries.

"They can travel to places where they're not supposed to be. So the first option is to make sure that patient is stable, and then from there, you start doing x-rays to determine what other organs could have been injured in the track of the bullet," said Dr. Roger Maillefer, Kishwaukee Community Hospital.

Out of the 18 patients, nine have been discharged, one was still admitted, seven critically injured were transferred to other area trauma centers, and one died at Kishwaukee. One of the seven transferred also died.

The patient still recovering at Kishwaukee is 20 years old. She had surgery Friday, but she is expected to be OK.

Hospital administrators say treating the injured was almost like taking care of family.

"We had nurses, we had physicians, we had other staff members that had students, sons and daughters at NIU, and they were in here as a health care provider, but they were also in here as a mom and dad. And they weren't for sure, you know, they did not know if the next patient that was being brought in by the ambulance was going to be their son or daughter," said Maillefer.

Governor Blagojevich arrived at the hospital around 3 p.m. to meet with the recovering woman and with hospital staff and to express his condolences to all of the victims.

Another student, Jim Donohue, was hit in the back of the head. He had been sitting in the classroom with his girlfriend when, he said, the gunman casually walked in, raised the gun and opened fire. On Friday morning, he spoke about how he had reacted to the sounds of the gunfire.

"It was like, 'click, click, oh, oh, my gosh'. It was like a track meet, where you hear it. And I got up and took off running, actually lost my shoes when I was running," Donohue said.

He was also hit in the back with a shotgun pellet. The doctors told him they will be difficult to remove, so he will deal with those naturally..

Three victims at Good Samaritan

Three of the victims came to Downers Grove's Good Samaritan hospital. One is a 19-year-old woman from Plainfield, Unnum Rahman. Her mom heard about the shooting and immediately headed toward NI\U in DeKalb. She was directed to Kishwaukee Community Hospital, where she was actually able to see her daughter, and the two rode via ambulance to Good Samaritan.

Doctors said Friday afternoon that the pellets are what did the most extensive damage to the three victims at Good Samaritan. One of the victims, Maria Ruiz Santana, 20, is battling wounds to her head, neck and chest. She is in critical condition. Her 20-year-old classmate is in serious condition, shot in the right side of his chest.

Father Wassif Rahman said his daughter has injuries to her right eye, but she is talking and surrounded by friends and family. Her dad says Unnum Rahman hasn't even begun to process what happened.

"She didn't know she was shot until she got out of the classroom. She was just running out, and by the time she got halfway to outside, she saw the blood and all that, and then the other people saw that and tried to help her," said Wassif Rahman.

"I can't give you the prognosis as of yet, as it's too early to tell whether or not she'll be able to have 100 percent recovery. But today, we did see some improvement," said Dr. Michael Iwanicki, Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital.

Doctors, though, were not predicting when the three patients at Good Samaritan may be released. Wassif Rahman said that he feels lucky that he's able to stand and talk about even devastating injuries to his daughter. He says many parents aren't so lucky. He says his thoughts are with them.