'Best of our community:' Children's Wisconsin staff discuss response to Waukesha Christmas Parade tragedy

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MILWAUKEE (CBS58) -- Staff at Children's Wisconsin say the response to the Waukesha Christmas parade tragedy was a challenge, but training and preparation helped them be ready for the mass casualty event.

Medical team members detailed when they first heard about what happened on the night of Sunday, Nov. 21.

"I was at home and I received a message that there was this mass casualty event in Waukesha with up to 30 victims," Dr. Lorin Brown, an emergency department physician at Children's, told CBS 58.

"Everybody from my team called, texted, people that were out of town all said, 'do you want me to come back?" recalled Michael Meyer, the hospital's medical director of the pediatric intensive care unit. "The response to this was an unbelievable team response."

Children's took on a total of 18 patients from the mass casualty event in Waukesha.

"As a nurse and as a leader [it was] probably one of my most hardest days in my role, but as well as probably one of my most grateful days," patient care manager Heather Nelson said in an interview. "We had over 20 nurses, critical care nurses that responded and were here actually before patients came through our ICU doors."

Staff said training and mock drills of mass casualty events helped the process, from when the patients entered the hospital to when they were discharged.

"We were ready, we were prepared, we knew what was coming and we put a plan into action that we practiced, and you hope we never use it, but it went flawlessly," Meyer said.

The care provided by Children's went beyond physical injuries. Social workers were paired up with every family with an affected patient.

"I think it will be important for all of us as a community to continue to support them, both through their medical rehabilitation but also their mental health rehabilitation," Megan Struve, the family services manager at Children's, said.

But through tragedy, Children's staff said they are filled with hope because of the strength demonstrated by patients and the community.

"In tragic events such as this you tend to see the worst of humanity, but then you get to see the best of our community," Dr. Brown said.

"The resiliency that these children and the families, what they demonstrated, unbelievable," Meyer said.

As of Dec. 3, four children remained in fair condition at Children's hospital, with one remaining in serious condition.

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