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'They've Got Our Back'

Emergency department at Danbury Hospital receives outpouring of support in wake of shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School

(Note: Linda Greenlese Mekeel, who maintains a blog at, is an emergency nurse at Danbury Hospital, where victims of the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School were taken. She posted the following on her blog Dec. 29, reprinted here with her permission.)

It's been a while since I've posted anything on this blog. My last entry was on 12/13 entitled "Holidays Can Be Horror Days in the ER." The very next day was more of a horror day than I had imagined. You see, I work in the ER where victims of the Sandy Hook School shooting were brought.

I'm not ready to write about what it was like in the ER on that terrible day just yet. I will be soon. What I do need to write about is the incredible outpourings of love and support from around this country that have been sent to the ER staff at Danbury Hospital. It has been like nothing I have experienced before.

In the 30-plus years I've been an ER nurse, there have been many "mass casualty" events. This term can refer to fires, building collapses, gas leaks, carbon monoxide exposures, boating accidents, shootings and multi-car pile ups. Many of these occurrences have been newsworthy and some have received national attention. In fact, there was one time we had a mystery patient who was the subject of the TV show Unsolved Mysteries back in the 1980s. What was different about Dec. 14, 2012, is the events were so horrible the news became viral before much was known about what was actually going down at the scene.

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The emergency department at Danbury Hospital received an outpouring of cards, letters, pictures and words of encouragement from all over the country.

Almost instantly, it seems, the ER was getting phone calls from across the country from other ERs offering support. A hospital in Massachusetts wanted to send food for the ER staff. This was the first of many calls we received from other healthcare facilities, emergency medical services, religious organizations and post-traumatic stress services.

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Nurses from Huntsville, Ala., sent pizza to Danbury Hospital's emergency nurses.

We received cards, letters, pictures and words of encouragement from all over the country. The remarks are tender and touching. Some are from ERs that have experienced similar events: from Colorado, the ERs that cared for the Columbine and Aurora victims; from Virginia, the ER that cared for the Virginia Tech victims. An ER in Huntsville, Ala., sent pizza. We also received pizza from hospitals in Texas and New Hampshire.

An ER in North Carolina offered to send nurses to cover shifts of anyone who wanted to go to memorial services. Children drew pictures. One letter was from an inmate at the Idaho State Correctional Facility. He wrote a long missive about not losing hope.

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Nurses at Swedish Medical Center in Colorado, which treated victims of July's theater shootings in Aurora, sent words of support to their Connecticut colleages.

We received bouquets of flowers from the town of Newtown, the Connecticut chapter of the Emergency Nurses Association and multiple individuals. The ENA also sent us the largest fruit arrangement I've ever seen. Someone, I have no idea who, sent a large box of music CDs with the song "Hallelujah" and words of hope on the label. We have received meals from local schools and churches. Huge pans of lasagna and baked chicken were delivered for all three nursing shifts so nobody missed out. There were faxes from hospitals all over Connecticut and beyond.

I've been humbled by all of this. I had never considered doing such a thing for strangers in other ERs. Columbine, Virginia Tech and Aurora had been through what we had experienced. Those nurses and others who sent us their love and gifts must have received similar support and are paying it forward to us.

When the next major traumatic event happens, and we know there is always another around the corner, I will remember how we were hugged from afar. My heart will be open to those caregivers who are dealing with the shock and the sorrow that accompanies such occurrences.

There are a lot of emotions we are dealing with right now. We've grieved, we've raised money for the victims, we've prayed. We celebrated the holidays knowing so many families were torn apart. As emergency workers, we often have to suppress our feelings in order to function in the midst of a crisis. We've been reminded to remember to take care of ourselves. I want to say thank you to all those who have shown us so much love and kindness.


Kudos to Linda Mekeel RN for such a heartfelt, wonderful article. I didn't realize the outpouring of love the Danbury ER had received . Linda spoke of it very eloquently.
Beth Burns RN

Elizabeth Burns,  RN ,  Danbury hospitalJanuary 30, 2013
Woodbury, CT


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