Doctor Collapse as He Treated His Colleague After Chicago Shooting

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A gunman killed a doctor, a pharmaceutical assistant and a police officer at Mercy Hospital in Chicago on Nov. 19. The gunman also died at the scene.

Dr. John Purakal was working a shift in the emergency room at the University of Chicago Medical Center on Monday when word came that there had been a shooting at Mercy Hospital just a few miles north.

Upon learning that there would be multiple victims arriving at University of Chicago Medicine after a shooting at Mercy Hospital on Monday, emergency room physician John Purakal sprang into action.

Dr. John Purakal went to the trauma bay to see whether he could help. When he got there, “the very first patient that came in” was Dr. Tamara O’Neal — with whom he’d worked for three years during their residencies at the University of Illinois at Chicago after medical school.

Purakal’s readiness turned to shock, however, when he saw that he’d be treating his former colleague: Tamara O’Neal.

“I was doing my best to help in every way that I could,” Purakal said in an interview Tuesday. He surrendered control as the primary physician so that his judgment wouldn’t be clouded as he worked to save her life.

Purakal revealed Monday on Twitter that he broke down in front of his co-workers when O’Neal died.

Dr. Tamara O’Neal.

Dr. Tamara O’Neal, a physician at Mercy Hospital & Medical Center, was one of three people killed in the shooting Monday, along with Chicago Police Officer Samuel Jimenez, 28, and Dayna Less, 24, a pharmacy resident.

The gunman, who was identified as Juan Lopez, killed himself after police arrived. Officials said he and O’Neal until recently had been engaged to be married.

 Juan Lopez and Dr. Tamara O’Neal.

After graduating, O’Neal became a doctor at Mercy Hospital. Her colleagues there say they’ll miss her outgoing personality and willingness to go out of her way for others.

Upon starting her job at Mercy Hospital, Connor noted that O’Neal requested to have Sundays off to attend church because her faith played a central role in her life. This dispensation was not one the hospital typically granted, Connor said, but O’Neal was willing to work evenings and Fridays to make up for it.

“It was the basis of everything for her, even in her relationship, the church was where she went for counsel,” Cobbs said. “It was where she harvested her strength.”

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