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9 train victims at hospitals, 1 critical

Updated 12:13 am, Sunday, May 19, 2013
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Injured
Here are the numbers of train crash victims taken to area hospitals:
St. Vincent's Medical Center: 44 patients taken to hospital, six admitted, none in critical condition.
Bridgeport Hospital: 26 patients taken to hospital, three admitted, one in critical condition.
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BRIDGEPORT -- Among the most severely hurt in Friday's Metro-North Railroad derailment, was a man who suffered temporary paralysis in half his body. Others crash victims suffered lacerations, head pain, neck pain, back pain and various other injuries. Still, considering the rush-hour packed trains were mangled, officials expressed surprise that the injuries weren't worse.

When reports began streaming in about the scores of people hurt in Friday night's train derailment at the Fairfield/Bridgeport line, area hospital officials prepared to handle up to 90 injured passengers per hospital.

In the end, 70 people were taken to Bridgeport's two hospitals -- 26 to Bridgeport Hospital and 44 to St. Vincent's Medical Center. On Saturday, nine people remained in the hospital.

"It was one of the worst, if not the worst, mass casualty events we've seen," said Bridgeport Hospital spokesman John Cappiello, who has been with the hospital 22 years

Injuries included lacerations, head injuries, shoulder pain, neck pain and some spinal injuries. The patient who was taken to St. Vincent's suffered temporary paralysis in half his body, but St. Vincent's Medical Center President Dr. Stuart Marcus said the man is regaining feeling and expected to recover. That man was in the intensive care unit Saturday, one of six patients at the hospital.

Only three patients remained at Bridgeport -- two of whom were in stable condition, and one in critical. Cappiello predicted the stable patient would stay at least until Sunday for observation.

At both hospitals, officials described the mood Friday night as busy, but not chaotic. "I think this was a significant event but this is what we train for," said Susan Davis, president and chief executive officer of St. Vincent's Health Services, of which St. Vincent's Medical Center is a part.

Coincidentally, the two hospitals had recently staged a mass casualty drill, which prepared them on how to respond in an emergency like this one.

At St. Vincent's, for example, there was a surgeon on duty evaluating patients and assessing their pain. Additional staff also came in to help, including those who weren't scheduled to work. "We had a lot of physicians who just heard about the accident and came in," Davis said.

On top of the train patients, the hospital also had to handle normal emergency room traffic, including patients from a carjacking that had happened in the city Friday night.

"It was the normal emergency room, just stepped up a few notches," Davis said.

Cappiello agreed, saying the staff seemed to take the influx of injured in stride. "Witnessing the work of our emergency room is like seeing someone push a button and seeing everything kick into gear," he said. "Fortunately, the majority of patients weren't critically injured."

Marcus said that was miraculous, considering how bad the accident was. He said he worked at Bellevue Hospital in New York during 9/11. That was an incident, he said, when doctors thought they'd be seeing scores of injured patients, but, unfortunately, there were more deaths than injuries. "Whenever something like this happens, that what you worry about," he said.

Marcus was the incident commander at St. Vincent's on Friday, and said he spoke with several of the patients, including those who told him some amazing stories of bravery. "One woman told us how she was helping other people out of the train," he said. "She spent a lot of time (helping others), even though she had a back injury."

acuda@ctpost.com; 203-330-6290; twitter.com/AmandaCuda; http://blog.ctnews.com/whatthehealth/