First Responder Returns To Work In Las Vegas Following Sunday's Massacre

Oct 4, 2017
Originally published on October 4, 2017 11:25 pm
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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Sunday night on the Las Vegas Strip was chaos with people running from the path of bullets. There were also reports of multiple shooters, which turned out to be false. Through it all, emergency responders were trying to save the wounded. One of them was Caitlin Medina. She's a young, advanced EMT who's been doing this for about a year and a half. NPR's Leila Fadel spent the morning with Medina as she returned to her regular shift.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Morning, Ms. Caitlin.

CAITLIN MEDINA: Good morning, Ms. Marla (ph) - oh, you know, just living the dream.

LEILA FADEL, BYLINE: Caitlin Medina greets colleagues on her way to her truck at Community Ambulance where she's an advanced EMT. She has on her pink breast cancer awareness shirt, a sparkly headband adorning her blond hair and her usual positive attitude. Her partner, Sarah Derleth, is already inside the truck.

SARAH DERLETH: We need to still wipe everything down because I found remnants of it.

MEDINA: Yeah, we've been going through our trucks, unfortunately. With everything that's happened and - we find blood in random spots in our...

FADEL: You wouldn't know it by looking at her, but 20-year-old Medina is back to work after being a first responder during Sunday's massacre. Laughing with Derleth helps.

MEDINA: (Laughter).

FADEL: She's back to regular days where the calls are about chest pains, stomach aches or maybe one gunshot wound, nothing like what she witnessed this weekend when she arrived at the grounds of the country music festival with an active shooter still out there.

MEDINA: Walking into that seemed absolutely like a horror movie - bodies everywhere, just everywhere.

FADEL: It looked fake, she says. She loaded people into trucks, decided who had a fighting chance and piled them in, sometimes five at a time, to get to the hospital. She was in work mode, she says. But there is one moment that haunts her - a woman lying on the road, wounded.

MEDINA: She unfortunately took a fatal shot to the head but was still alive. And I had to sit there and make that decision on, do I call for help?

FADEL: She knew nothing would save her.

MEDINA: I didn't have the heart to just let her stay there by herself and be alone. And so I sat there with her until she took her last breath.

FADEL: The only thing to do now, she says, is to keep going.

MEDINA: I think that the one day off was more than enough only because sitting at home allows you to dwell on it - getting back into the swing of things and back into your normal life and having those moments of, oh, that sucked.

FADEL: Medina's partner, Derleth, is also her best friend.

MEDINA: Did the boys end up winning their game last night?

DERLETH: Yeah.

FADEL: It's slow today, so they have time to talk about Derleth's kids. The joking, the laughing - it brings lightness to tough moments. She brainstorms with Derleth about ways to subtly look Halloweeny (ph) during their upcoming Halloween shift.

MEDINA: I did find these Ninja Turtle ones. It's a shirt with, like, kind of, like, a tutu.

DERLETH: Yeah, but we can't wear those because of our shirts.

MEDINA: We'll probably - might need to make this happen.

DERLETH: (Laughter).

FADEL: Bad things happen, she says. This was a really big one, but it doesn't mean she walks away from this work.

MEDINA: Being on the ambulance gives me joy. Like, I love what I do. I genuinely love what I do. So being back at a spot where I can do what I love brings me a peace of mind.

FADEL: She was made for this, she says. And more than ever, she feels like she's making a difference. Leila Fadel, NPR News, Las Vegas. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.