(SANTA BARBARA, Calif.) — Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital trauma surgeon Dr. Pamela Lee said one of the hardest moments she experienced while treating the 19 victims of the Santa Barbara, California slayings was having to tell Bianca de Kock that her two sorority sisters were dead.
“The moment she came in she was asking about her friends, and at that point none of us had any idea who survived or what happened,” Lee told ABC News. “As the details started to come forward, we realized she was the one out of the three that survived. And her mom was very concerned about how she was going to react to the deaths, but she handled it with grace. She seems like a very strong girl, but obviously this has been really, really tough for her.”
De Kock sustained five gunshot wounds. Some grazed her body, while others were “through and through” injuries, Lee said.
“She was very lucky in that she never required any operative intervention,” she said. “But obviously the emotional wounds are a lot, and are going to take a lot longer to heal.”
Of the three sorority sisters, de Kock is the only one who survived. Freshman Veronika Weiss, 19, was a sports buff and math whiz; Katie Cooper, 22, was about to graduate with a degree in art history. Weiss and Cooper represent two of the six people Elliot Rodger killed in the rampage, with de Kock and 12 others injured.
For Lee, the night began at 9:45 p.m. on Friday, just 12 minutes after the first shootings occurred.
“I came into the hospital immediately, and as soon as I came in, basically the first victims were arriving,” Lee said. “Seven people basically came into our ER all at once, and probably to someone who just walked in, it would’ve seemed really chaotic, like there wasn’t a lot of order, but we were all working round the clock. The ER was buzzing.”
With the emergency room buzzing and all hands on deck, Lee said, it was an instance that isn’t the norm for practicing physicians and residents at Cottage Hospital.
“For us to see something like this is totally out of the ordinary,” Lee said. “There was great community support though and I am so proud of the way our ER responded. All of the seven victims got excellent care. So we are really proud of the way that the team responded. It think that is the bright spot in this awful event.”
Watching as the college students came pouring into the ER was difficult for Lee, she said. It wasn’t until she was home that she realized the events that had unfolded that day.
“It’s hard because what you really want to do is focus on what happened and what the good things were, and my friends here in the ER and I mean everybody we’ve talked about it. I think that is part of the healing process is talking about it to,” she said. “It’s been hard, but I think all of us are dealing with it. We do not see a lot of trauma, so this is just definitely totally out of the ordinary and so tragic. But everyone worked together to save lives, and I think that is what I am most proud of.”
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