When Deborah Johnson listens to the news coverage surrounding the Newtown Conn., shootings, a vivid and traumatizing memory comes to mind, she told The Huffington Post.
"Even though it's a long time after, I can still hear the pattern of the gunshots," Johnson, 56, said, describing the six rounds she heard fired at a Mardis Gras parade she attended nine years ago.
Johnson, a nurse from Nashville with over 30 years of training, was at a Fat Tuesday celebration in 2003 when a teenager shot four people. Out of instinct, she ran towards the sounds of the gunshots and acted in more ways than one.
Johnson, who works now as director of clinical transformation at Hospital Corporation of America (HCA) witnessed several teenagers flee the scene and found four victims on the ground, she told Nurseweek.com. With other health workers helping out, Johnson focused her attention on a young woman who was shot in the thigh. She administered first aid by applying pressure to the wound to stop the bleeding, she told the news outlet.
Johnson tried to keep the woman calm by reassuring her that family would come, she told The Huffington Post.
“She was hit in the upper thigh, bleeding quite a bit, hysterical, and very panicky because she didn’t know what happened,” Johnson told the news outlet.
Once the injured were taken away to the hospital, Johnson wasn’t finished with trying to help.
“Sometimes all that’s needed to help a person through is to hold their hand and offer support, but nursing gives you a lot of skills in problem-solving and intervention. You just have to apply them,” she told Nurseweek.com.
In fear of retaliation, Johnson noticed eye witnesses were afraid to come forward to the police.
"It appalled me as a human being that we don't admit or bear witness when we see wrong," she told The Huffington Post. The veteran nurse pushed past her worry and gave police a description of the gunman she saw.
Her actions prompted others to do the same, which led police to make arrests and find the gun.
Reflecting on the experience, Johnson has learned to trust her instincts and knowledge. "If you have the understanding and ability to help, don't doubt yourself," she said.