Friends, family flood Va. hospital

17 taken to area hospital

others treated elsewhere

Medical care

Virginia Tech Shootings

April 17, 2007|By Melissa Harris, Bradley Olson and Jonathan Bor | Melissa Harris, Bradley Olson and Jonathan Bor,SUN REPORTERS

Blacksburg, Va. -- Caught between hope and dread, friends and relatives of the injured descended yesterday on a small community hospital in Blacksburg that had never seen anything like yesterday's flood of patients.

Montgomery Regional Hospital, a 146-bed facility just miles from campus, treated students with gunshot injuries and others who suffered broken bones after they leapt from classroom windows to escape the approaching gunman.

Seventeen victims, all of them students, were taken to the community hospital; one was dead on arrival. Four underwent surgery, according to a hospital spokesman. Three patients were in critical condition last night.

Smaller numbers were taken to New River Valley Medical Center in nearby Radford, Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital and Lewis-Gale Medical Center in Salem, just outside Roanoke.

With rescue helicopters grounded because of severe winds, ambulances ferried all of the injured to local hospitals.

Some of the visitors said they spared their injured friends the full scope of what had happened on campus - such as the number of the dead and injured - fearing that the details would hinder their recovery.

Adam Farrell, a 19-year-old business student from Manassas, Va., visited a young woman who was shot twice in the stomach and once in the hand while in a classroom in Norris Hall, where most of the shooting occurred.

After waiting two hours for their friend to finish surgery and regain consciousness, Farrell and a few buddies walked sheepishly into her hospital room.

"The first thing she said was, `How was your day?'" said Farrell.

"We didn't know what to say - we were dumbstruck," said another visitor, Phillip Boone of Alexandria.

"I finally said, `awesome,' very sarcastically," said Farrell.

The young woman talked only for about five minutes before declaring she was tired and wanted to sleep."

Bob Allison of Pittsburgh came to the hospital to see his friend, Kevin, who had been shot twice in the leg while in German class. Both were seniors in the engineering school and worked together at the campus radio station, WUVT.

Allison brought ice cubes to his friend's hospital room, thinking he was probably thirsty after surgery. The first words out of Kevin's mouth were: "How did the radio show go last night?" Allison recalled.

When the gunman barged into the door and started shooting, "the first shot hit him, and he remained conscious," said Allison, who wasn't in the class. "So when the second shot hit him, he fell to the floor, and he doesn't remember anything."

Allison described his friend, who underwent surgery to have his femoral artery repaired, as "pale, drained but happy."

"He's happy for himself, but he doesn't know how big this got."

Joe Derlaga, 21, a senior from Connecticut, was visiting a friend who had jumped out a second-floor window with a female classmate.

"He didn't know that she had made it until I told him," said Derlaga.

Derlaga said he learned from his friend, whom he would identify only as Jeff, that students started jumping when they heard gunshots ringing out elsewhere on the floor.

"The gunshots were getting closer and closer, so they decided to jump out the window," said Derlaga.

Jeff, a junior engineering student from Northern Virginia, suffered a broken leg. The girl who jumped with him was lucky to have only sprained her back.

Derlaga was with a contingent of seven engineering students - all members of a design team that had been building a remote-controlled airplane since they were freshmen. They were planning to visit Arizona soon and said they were sure the airline - upon learning what had happened - would upgrade their injured friend to first class.

Montgomery Regional has a 16-bed emergency department and is rated a Level III trauma center, which means it is designed to conduct emergency surgery but not on the most seriously injured patients.

Three patients were reportedly sent to Roanoke Memorial, the region's highest-level trauma center. Friends and families of the injured declined to talk to a reporter as they hurriedly walked from the hospital parking garage toward the main entrance.

melissa.harris@baltsun.com bradley.olson@baltsun.com jonathan.bor@baltsun.com

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