ER doctor remembers frantic response to Pulse Nightclub mass shooting

In the wee hours of June 12, 2016, trauma surgeon Dr. Chadwick Smith remembers cases were just starting to slow down at Orlando Regional Medical Center (ORMC) when he received an urgent call around 2 a.m.

"Dr. Smith, there's going to be a mass shooting and we have 20-plus gunshot wound patients coming into the emergency department," he recalled.

Moments later, frantic, scared, and injured Pulse club-goers started showing up in the emergency room.

"We got patients brought in basically in the back of the pickup truck," he said.

The situation got heavy fast.

"The proximity to the nightclub allowed them to make it here in basically in the process of dying," Dr. Smith explained.  "If we had been farther away, you know they probably would not have made it here."

Nine Pulse victims died moments after arriving in the ER.  Dr. Smith remembers the pace at which patients arrived over the next 30 to 40 minutes, something he’d only ever experienced in mass disaster drills.

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"Going through that with losing patients and then still having to keep going and working on all the other patients was, you know, affected all of the team members that night."

He has followed up on the people he helped that night.

"Most of them have healed physically and I hope that they're able to heal mentally as well," Dr. Smith added.

He admits that he too had to heal.

"Instead of having what's called post-traumatic stress disorder, obviously there's post-traumatic growth -- you have to have a big support system for that," he said.

Dr. Smith credits ORMC for providing a strong emotional support system to help.

"It's tough to go through challenges like that. I think myself, I relied on my family and my co-workers and God, and you know you have to find something to help you get through that because you can't do it alone," he explained.

It was a hellacious night that will forever be a part of him.

"Every year, around this time, it kind of brings back -- especially with this being five years -- brings back memories."

Watch FOX 35 News for more coverage of the 5-year anniversary of the Pulse shooting.