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Emergency Doctor: Paris Hospital Saw Unanticipated Number Of Gunshot Victims


Our colleague Robert Siegel is in Paris. He has been talking with people there as they take stock of what they've been through. Now we're going to hear his conversation with a doctor who take care of some of those who were shot in the attacks.

ROBERT SIEGEL, BYLINE: Right next to the sight of several of the shootings on Friday night in Paris is the Hopital Saint Louis - the Saint Louis Hospital. And the head of the emergency department here, Dr. Jean-Paul Fontaine, was working Friday night when this emergency room saw more gunshot victims than any French hospital could ever expect to see on a single night.

JEAN-PAUL FONTAINE: Usually in the emergency department in France, you may have a car crash. Sometime, one gun but not that type of number of patients was of gun.

SIEGEL: Normally, here, just one gun shot on the weekend, or...

FONTAINE: One per year.

SIEGEL: Per year?

FONTAINE: In Paris, that's not like in the USA, you know?

SIEGEL: And Friday night?

FONTAINE: Twenty-seven patients. The first patients we had - members of emergency team who took stretcher.

SIEGEL: You mean by foot. They took a stretcher...


SIEGEL: ...And ran around...


SIEGEL: ...Outside the hospital walls. And what were you thinking during all this? What were you - what was going through your mind as the emergency doctor?

FONTAINE: I can tell you, you don't think. I can tell you that you don't see the end of it. That was very strange. When will it all stop? Patients, stretchers, patients, stretchers, surgeon - you don't know the intensity of it, the number of it.

SIEGEL: Did all of the patients who came here to this hospital - did they all survive the night?


SIEGEL: Were they all gunshot wounds?

FONTAINE: All - all of them.

SIEGEL: I assume this was unlike any other night you've had...


SIEGEL: ...As an emergency doctor in Paris.

FONTAINE: Sure, sure.

SIEGEL: Now that you've had a day or two to digest what went on and not as a doctor, but as a Parisian, as a French citizen, what do you make of what happened?

FONTAINE: They're on different levels. First of all is, what I could not imagine before was the silence on the Friday night in an emergency department with that kind of event, and especially from the patients.

SIEGEL: Silence.

FONTAINE: Yeah - no scream, no cry, no shout, like if the patients were shocked, deftly shocked - first. Second, if you had the time to speak with them, every one of them were able to tell you their special story of the event. And I explained this silence from them like, sure, I got a gun wound, but I'm still alive. And I think of one of these image I will keep will be that silence.

After that, as a Parisian or citizen, the trouble is when you have kids. You can't imagine your kids could be there. But if you are near, you don't know what it's out. You don't listen to your phone. You have something other to do. After that, the next day, you see the number of message, the number of names. Is it fine? Are the kids OK and all that.

SIEGEL: Do you think it changes the way you think about everyday life in Paris or in this neighborhood?



FONTAINE: No, no. And I hope that it will be the same for the Parisian people. Paris is a living city. You can't imagine there were no football game, no movies, no concerts, no music, no bars. That's impossible. And you have to keep on having this atmosphere. So we are not afraid.

SIEGEL: Well, Dr. Fontaine, thank you very much for talking with us.

FONTAINE: Au revoir.

SHAPIRO: That's our colleague Robert Siegel in Paris speaking with Jean-Paul Fontaine, head of the emergency department at Saint Louis Hospital. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.