Bronx-Lebanon Hospital Staff Praised After Doctor Shooting

Dozens of staff members acted courageously to keep people safe during the Bronx-Lebanon Hospital shooting.
Published: July 6, 2017

As they continue to recover from last week’s shooting, staff members at Bronx-Lebanon Hospital Center were praised for their heroic actions during and after the tragedy.

Bronx-Lebanon Hospital opened again on July 3, with many doctors and nurses speaking to media outlets for the first time.

The incident occurred when Doctor Henry Bello, 45, entered the hospital with an AR-15 rifle and shot seven people, one fatally, before setting himself on fire and shooting himself in the head.

The shooting unfolded as surgeries were being conducted and babies were being born, and staff members helped evacuate 500 patients from the facility, with only one sustaining an injury, reports the New York Times.

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Dozens of staff members should be recognized for their dedication to patient safety and quick thinking during such a high-stress event.

“Their complete disregard for their own safety was exceptional,” Surgery Department Chairman Dr. Brian F. Gilchrist said. “It’s a complete testimony to the teamwork and family atmosphere and sanctity of this hospital.”

Many staff members, clinical and non-clinical, rushed to bring supplies to surgeons as they treated their colleagues— even as the facility remained in a lockdown.

The 17-story tower had to be navigated despite the emergency sprinklers that were flooding certain hallways and the elevators that were shut down, and medical staff is credited with working for hours on victims with serious injuries, many of them colleagues they knew personally.

“Even though we might work around blood and body fluids all the time, it’s different when it happens in your workplace,” Nurse Manager Mark Burgess said. “Everyone outside of the hospital knew more than we did.”

The New York Times highlighted some staff member’s stories, summarized below.

Donna Lee Peterkin

Registered Nurse Donna Lee Peterkin was treating a patient when the shooting began. She quickly locked the door and comforted the patient.

After the shooting, police kicked in the door and told Peterkin to stay in the room. But when Peterkin saw on the television that there were multiple injuries and officers told her the gunman was dead, Peterkin sprung into action, helping a doctor find an emergency cart with oxygen tanks.

The tanks are credited with helping save two patients’ lives because their bedside oxygen machines were deactivated when the sprinklers were triggered by the fire the gunman had set.

Peterkin has worked at Bronx-Lebanon Hospital Center for 25 years.

Peta Gaye Brooks

Operating Room Manager Peta Gaye Brooks is credited with helping coordinate the life-saving efforts of the operation staff following the shooting.

After learning there was an active shooter on the floors above her, Brooks ordered staff members to barricade the operating room. When the emergency room contacted Brooks and told her victims were being sent to her rooms, however, the group had to prepare to treat the wounded, some of whom Brooks knew personally.

In total, six victims were initially treated at Bronx-Lebanon Hospital Center. All six are in stable condition or have been released.

“It was just a selfless effort from everybody,” Brooks said. “We had a mind block, it was just like a regular day.”

Theresa Aryee

Registered Nurse Theresa Aryee saw the shooter, who was hiding his rifle underneath a lab coat, and smiled to him as he passed by. Bello had started working at the hospital in 2014.

It was time for Aryee’s break, but at the request of a patient she was treating him when the shooting began on the same floor. She quickly closed the door and comforted the two patients in the room.

Following the shooting she helped evacuate patients from the building.

“If I wouldn’t have [been treating patients on my break], I would have been dead,” Aryee said. “I do everything for my patients.”

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