First he witnessed two ambulances screaming down Las Vegas Boulevard, and over the next five minutes or so, three or four more zoomed past. Adiofel Mark Mendoza, MD SGU ’14, thought it unusual for a Sunday night—even in Las Vegas, where he was wrapping up a five-day vacation with family.
Dr. Mendoza checked the local dispatcher feed and pieced together information on an active shooter situation just four blocks south—at the Route 91 Harvest Country Music Festival outside the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino.
That’s when he, like many off-duty service workers, sprung into action. Dr. Mendoza raced to the scene and helped set up a triage center for injured concert goers about 1,000 feet from the site of the tragedy. Over the next six to eight hours, he treated approximately 20 patients who had been injured during the massacre, which left 59 people dead and more than 500 injured.
Dr. Mendoza—who is a full-time hospitalist at Summit Medical Group in New Jersey—confessed that he feels fortunate to have been able to help, but upset that such an event required it.
“I was honored to be there,” he said. “I’m glad there was something that I could do, and that I had the training, unfortunately, that was needed.
“It was a group effort. It was amazing how people were just running up to us asking what they could do, how they could help – nurses who were off duty, EMTs, off-duty or retired law enforcement, ex-military. A lot of people saved a lot of lives and did more courageous things than I did.”
Upon learning of the active situation outside the Mandalay Bay, Dr. Mendoza took a cab as close to the site as he could get before approaching it on foot. En route, he encountered a young woman bleeding from her pelvis, and her boyfriend who had been shot in the shoulder. After providing immediate treatment, Dr. Mendoza flagged down two ambulances and directed the drivers to rush the couple to the nearest trauma center immediately.
He then boarded an ambulance and, amid the chaos, made his way to the main command center—a circle of approximately 30 ambulances and fire trucks on Las Vegas Boulevard that allowed medical personnel to safely treat casualties. Injured concert goers slowly began to trickle in, many on makeshift wheelchairs—office chairs that had been borrowed from nearby businesses. They were treated for both physical and mental trauma.
“Truthfully, it was like being in the emergency room, just on a mass scale,” he said. “It was like being on the job. I’ve gone through a range of emotions and when people asked me about what happened, I really didn’t know what to say. I’m just thankful that I was there and that could help out in some way.”
Dr. Mendoza had been exposed to high-level trauma cases during his clinical training in New York City, Newark, and Chicago. He joined Summit Health after completing his internal medicine residency at New York University Langone Medical Center in Brooklyn, NY this summer, and has his sights set on becoming a military doctor. He is currently in the middle of the review process to be commissioned in the United States Navy Reserves.
“During my training, I volunteered myself every time there was a trauma code because those are the cases I want to be involved in,” Dr. Mendoza said. I forced myself to be in those situations so I could desensitize myself and be in the right state of mind when I’m needed.”
“It’s very upsetting to see something like this,” he continued. “I don’t know how people could do this to each other. In the ER, you see accidents where people come in with broken bones and such, but this was intentional, and these were innocent people who just there on vacation. They in no way deserved this.”