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September 20, 2018

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President’s visit ‘uplifting’ to UMC patients and staff


AP Photo/Evan Vucci

President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump walk with surgeon Dr. John Fildes at the University Medical Center after meeting with survivors of the mass shooting Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2017, in Las Vegas.

President Trump Visits Las Vegas After Mass Shooting

Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, left, greets President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump as they arrive Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2017, at Las Vegas McCarran International Airport to meet with victims and first responders of the mass shooting. Launch slideshow »

University Medical Center officials said President Donald Trump was “uplifting” and acted as “everybody’s next-door neighbor” when he met privately with shooting victims, their families and medical professionals on Wednesday.

Trump, who spent about 90 minutes at UMC, commended the doctors who treated victims of Sunday night’s massacre.

“It makes you very proud to be an American when you see the job that they've done,” Trump said.

Mason VanHouweling, chief executive officer of UMC, said both the president and first lady Melania Trump connected with victims and staff at UMC. They visited about a dozen patients and about 150 staff members, including the core team that was on the job during the first wave of victims.

“It was very uplifting that he was very concerned with the patients, their families and their individual stories,” VanHouweling said. “It helped with the healing process with our own staff with UMC as well.”

VanHouweling said Melania Trump brought a sense of ease to the hospital.

“The first lady was very calming,” he said. “It was really a nice visit.”

The boost in morale was needed at the hospital and throughout the community, VanHouweling said.

“He was very complimentary of how our staff responded on Sunday night,” VanHouweling said. “He’s heard about all the good things we’ve done, not only here at UMC, but all the hospitals and the community. We all really stepped up, and he was very proud of our community.”

A crowd of more than 100 across the street, some of who were attending a blood drive, witnessed the president leave UMC.

Assemblyman Chris Brooks, D-Las Vegas, organized the drive with the help of his wife, Michelle, hours after the attack. Street closures in the area prompted by Trump’s visit affected the turnout, he said.

“It is absolutely appropriate and necessary for the commander in chief to come visit,” Brooks said. “Regardless of who you would like to see be the president, it's an absolutely appropriate response and any president would have been here.”

After seeing the tragedy unfold, a Scottsdale, Ariz., resident said he made a special trip to Las Vegas to help.

“I wanted to do something for the people of Las Vegas,” said Chris, who did not want to provide his last name, while waiting for his Uber to take him back to his hotel. “So, I thought why not come out here to Las Vegas and donate some blood for the people out here who need it?”

He wasn't aware that Trump would be going to UMC, which he said was an added benefit for his trip.

“I love it. I’ve been to three of his rallies, and I’ve seen him here (in Las Vegas),” he said. “He’s doing what a president should do. Coming to see his people in pain, coming to console them. That’s a great thing.”

Dr. John Fildes, UMC trauma center’s medical director, said that Trump shook as many hands as possible, and was very personable with each person he met.

“He acted like he was everyone’s next-door neighbor,” Fildes said. “They instantly bonded. They were really empathetic and understanding and praised the patients for their bravery. He asked them where they were from and who their favorite country music stars were.”

That Trump was so personable caught Fildes off-guard, he said, adding that he did not expect the visit to be so intimate.

“I won’t say I’ve met many presidents, but I had thought someone at that level of government would be more (formal), and that was far from what I saw today,” Fildes said.

Fildes said Trump invited some patients to come to the White House once they’re healed.

One of the families said they were going to be in Washington, D.C., in three or four weeks, and he said, ‘Hey, give them a pass for the White House tour,’” Fildes said.

During an aftermath that brought out the best of the Las Vegas Valley, Fildes said it is a welcome change from the usual perception of the city and a state.

“He heard about the outpouring of support from the private citizens, the medical community, just all of the community support. He (Trump) recognized all of that,” Fildes said. “It was really nice to hear that. Too often we hear that we (Nevada) are No. 49 out of the 50 states in one thing or another, but today we’re No. 1.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.