Las Vegas shooting survivor describes how she was 'filleted open' and appeals for her rescuer

A 43-year-old nurse who was shot during the Las Vegas Strip massacre has said she can hardly believe she is still alive, 48 hours after taking a bullet through the stomach and having her leg ripped apart by shrapnel.

Speaking from her hospital bed, Natalie Vanderstay described scenes of carnage as she fled the massacre despite sustaining her own terrible injuries.

She recalls being trampled and shot before summoning a survival instinct to find a way out.

Ms Vanderstay stepped on people to save herself - something she said may haunt her forever.

Speaking from University Medical Centre, she recalled: "I said: 'OK, I can't stay here. I'm going to bleed out.' It hurt so bad.

"But I knew I didn't want to die. I wasn't ready to die."

The staggering count of people injured in the shooting at the Route 91 Harvest festival on Sunday means their recoveries are likely to be as varied as the victims themselves.

Some injuries are as simple as broken bones, while others are gunshot wounds involving multiple surgeries and potential transplants.

Las Vegas shooting survivor Natalie Vanderstay answers questions from her hospital bed at University Medical Center.

All come with the added emotional scars of enduring the deadliest shooting in modern US history, which left 59 people dead.

Ms Vanderstay is one of more than 500 people injured that night.

At least 130 of them remain in hospital, with 48 listed in critical condition.

At Sunrise Hospital and Medical Centre alone, the count of those treated included 120 people who were struck by gunfire, a chilling insight into the amount of ammunition unleashed in the attack.

Rehabilitation for the most seriously hurt victims will take far longer than many may realise.

Dr Thomas Scalea, physician-in-chief at the University of Maryland's Shock Trauma Centre in Baltimore, one of the nation's largest trauma centres, said recovery could take years. "It's not days or weeks."

For Ms Vanderstay, there are physical wounds that she as a nurse knows will take many weeks or longer to heal.

She underwent surgery to have her colon and small intestine resectioned, meaning portions were removed.

Then there are the memories of how her she received her injuries and how one night out with friends at a concert turned into a scene of almost unimaginable horror.

An investigator works in the room at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino.

"People were screaming. And the screams got louder and louder," she said.

"I felt this force in my stomach and I knew that I had gotten shot."

When the gunfire ripped into her, "it felt like a huge baseball, just the force of it going through my stomach".

She could see that her leg had been "filleted open," she said, and she recalled taking off her flannel shirt to bind her leg.

Ms Vanderstay said: "There were people that were dead. There was a guy, his eye was blown out, and I couldn't help him."

At the site of the attack, people fashioned stretchers out of fence posts and tarpaulin and made tourniquets out of belts. At local hospitals, the scene was similarly grave.

"They were coming in so fast," said Dr Jay Coates, a trauma surgeon at University Medical Centre of Southern Nevada, who operated on three people with gunshot wounds.

"We were just trying to keep people from dying."

To get out alive, Ms Vanderstay willed herself to jump over a fence and escape the concert ground. She then hunkered down with a group of strangers, waiting for the seemingly endless gunfire to stop.

Once bullets stopped raining down from overhead, Ms Vanderstay spotted a cab with three people already inside. She told them she had been shot and needed to get to a hospital.

The strangers took her in and put pressure on her stomach wound, and the quick-thinking cab driver knew not to take her to the nearest hospital but to University Medical Centre, the only Level I trauma centre in the state.

"If it wasn't for that cab driver, I wouldn't be here," she said, breaking down.

"And I don't know who he is. He did everything to get me here."

AP


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