With their fellow officers and other first responders lining the lobby of the Sanford Medical Center, Fargo police officers Andrew Dotas and Tyler Hawes walked out of the hospital under their own power. They were headed home less than one month after being shot at the scene of a routine traffic accident, where their fellow officer Jake Wallin was killed.
Men and women in uniform clapped and cheered for Dotas and Hawes. Emergency vehicles lined the road to the hospital’s entrance. The scenes were chill-inducing.
‘We practice for these things’
Just a few weeks earlier, when the officers were rushed into the emergency room with gunshot wounds, Sanford doctors, including Enej Gasevic, M.D., instituted their mass casualty protocols and worked relentlessly to save the officers’ lives.
“At first when I heard about it, like everybody else, I thought it was either a drill or a mistake that there were multiple officers shot,” said Dr. Gasevic, a trauma surgeon at Sanford Fargo. “Turns out that it was real.”
Despite working in trauma and critical care every day, Dr. Gasevic said the day of the shooting was different.
“The mood changes. Everyone moves with a purpose. Everyone wants to do their job the best that they can,” he said.
And yet, the department was fully prepared even for this terrible incident.
“We practice for these things,” said Dr. Gasevic. “At least once a year, we do a mass casualty drill that involves the city of Fargo and all the emergency services. Everyone knows what to do and everyone knows where to go. So it was nice to see that it actually came together when the time was calling for it.”
Road to recovery
Following multiple surgeries over the course of a few days, the officers were moved upstairs for their recovery. There they were cared for by nurses like Alex Nord.
“It brought all the nurses closer together, brought the community closer together,” said Nord. “You could just truly feel that everyone was trying their best to care for the individuals in the best way that they could.”
It was no surprise, then, to see Nord among the throngs of people in the lobby, including dozens of Sanford employees, when Hawes finally went home.
“Definitely a tearjerker,” said Nord. “I’ve never seen anything like that before.”
Dr. Gasevic agreed.
“It was very fulfilling for the entirety of the hospital — the whole team — to see the officers actually be able to walk out under their own power,” Gasevic said. “Realizing that because we were all there, because of all the work that we did, this is possible.”
Events like the shooting in Fargo are tragic and far-reaching. But in the longer term, they can be triumphant as well.
“This event affected everyone that lives here,” said Dr. Gasevic. “It almost feels like it took away some of the innocence of living in what is not a huge metro area, where these kind of things aren’t the norm. We don’t have officers shot every week, and that’s why most of us live here. But when something terrible happens, this community comes together better than almost any place I can imagine.”
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