ORMC unveils new expanded trauma center on Pulse anniversary

At four o'clock, the bells rang 49 times in downtown Orlando - once for each victim of the Pulse nightclub shooting. Dr. Joseph Ibrahim was working at the ORMC ER that night. He remembered being told to come help shooting victims, and expecting to treat three or four people. "I walked into the trauma room and clearly it was much different. I'll never forget the very first patient I saw, with a large gunshot wound to the chest, and then looking and seeing the room essentially full of other patients," Ibrahim said.

There might have been even more Pulse victims, were it not for the lifesaving work of ORMC’s emergency room doctors and staff. Many victims were taken there on the night of the shooting. The hospital has a new look now – including new trauma bays: six beds, surrounded by lifesaving equipment and plenty of space for staff - more than double the size of the earlier trauma center.

The expanded trauma center is part of a $25 million renovation of the ORMC emergency department. All of that money is coming from private donations. Dr. Tracy Zito, ORMC Trauma Medical Director, said it was a welcome change from the way things were. "We had five bays previously that were so close together it was difficult, it was difficult."

If they need, workers can now reconfigure the area to make room for twelve trauma patients. The change has the potential to save even more lives, especially during a mass-casualty event, like the hospital dealt with during the Pulse tragedy. "Obviously, it's surreal. It's something you never expect to be part of, something you hope you're not part of but when you're in the thick of it, as described earlier, you just go into certain mode of taking care of one patient at a time," Ibrahim said.

ORMC is the area's only level-one trauma center, and 44 pulse victims wound up there after the deadly shooting. The 35 patients that made it onto the operating table all survived. Ibrahim said it was fitting that this expansion coincided with the anniversary of the tragedy. 

"Obviously, there's downsides, seeing so many people injured," he said. "But we saw a lot of people get well and walk out that might not have otherwise. Again, to use that as motivation to want to get better and both from a training standpoint but also from a physical building standpoint and capability standpoint, it really is special to see that come to fruition at this time of year."