As a former doctor walked through the hospital halls armed with an assault rifle and opened fire, staff at the Bronx-Lebanon Hospital heroically did what they could to save patients as those in the middle of surgeries continued their work.
“Their complete disregard for their own safety was exceptional,” Brian F. Gilchrist, M.D., chairman of the hospital’s department of surgery, told The New York Times. “It’s a complete testimony to the teamwork and family atmosphere and sanctity of this hospital."
The deadly shooting occurred Friday when 45-year-old Henry Bello, who worked at the hospital for about six months until he resigned in February 2015 in lieu of termination, came looking for the physician he blamed for his job loss. The doctor wasn’t at the hospital, but Bello took out an AR-15 rifle he had hidden under a white lab coat and started shooting.
Before he ultimately took his own life, Bello shot and killed 32-year-old Tracy Sin-Yee Tam, M.D., who was covering a shift for another doctor, and wounded six others. Those victims—who were medical residents, a medical student and a patient—suffered injuries to the abdomen, neck, thigh and hand and are recovering.
Throughout the entire ordeal, staff rushed to take cover and protect patients from the gunfire. Surgeries also continued. “Hospital staff throughout the crisis were able to able to operate at an optimal level," Bronx-Lebanon Hospital Vice President Errol C. Schneer said at a news conference, as covered by CBS News. "Babies were delivered, surgeries continued, and that was made possible because staff stayed and did what they had to do."
Peta Gaye Brooks, operating room manager, told the NYT that she had staff barricade the operating room when she heard there was an active shooter on the floor above them. But then the shooting victims, many of them colleagues, were sent to the operating room and surgical teams had to work to save them. Though it was “heart-wrenching,” she said the entire team was selfless. “We had a mind block, it was just like a regular day,” she told the publication.
But in the aftermath, many hospital staff are still in disbelief it happened and deeply mourn the loss of Tam. Zid Sridhar Chilimuri. M.D., physician in chief at the hospital, told CBS New York, that the staff loved her. “Her loss is just impossible for us to fathom,” he said.