Inside the Tri-State's Busiest Trauma Center

The Newark ER is the only Level 1 center in northern New Jersey.

By Tom Llamas
|  Wednesday, Nov 23, 2011  |  Updated 6:55 AM EDT
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To pass through these doors, you?re either saving a life or the one being saved. It's the New Jersey Trauma Center at University Hospital in Newark, where NBC New York was recently given exclusive access.

NBC New York

To pass through these doors, you?re either saving a life or the one being saved. It's the New Jersey Trauma Center at University Hospital in Newark, where NBC New York was recently given exclusive access.

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To pass through these doors, you’re either saving a life or the one being saved.

It's the New Jersey Trauma Center at University Hospital in Newark, where NBC New York was recently given exclusive access.

Leading the team of surgeons, residents and nurses on a recent Saturday night was Dr. David Livingston.

“We probably, more than other physicians, deal with death,” Livingston says. “If you can’t deal with the deaths then this is not a specialty for you. It’s hard. It never gets easier.”

What makes this trauma center unique is that it’s the only Level 1 center in northern New Jersey, capable of treating anyone from the homeless to world leaders, 24 hours a day.

Nurse Dana Phelps was recruited to be a combat nurse in Afghanistan because of her experience in this trauma center.

“Sometimes you have to remove yourself from a situation and focus on what’s in front of you,” she said.

And lately in Newark, what’s in front of them more and more is violence.

Many patients in the trauma center are victims of crime, so there’s a clear law enforcement presence there, with police officers and detectives trying to gather information.

Miguel Gonzalez, another trauma nurse, says many patients are gang members.

 “They’re actually proud of it to get shot and walk away,” he says.

As the hours passed on the night NBC New York was there, the team treated nearly a dozen patients in need of urgent care, and some did not make it.

But others did.

“It’s a phenomenal feeling,” says Livingston. “It’s hard to describe -- that you go ‘Wow, if we weren’t here this guy would’ve died.’”
 

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