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Ex-Army medic, who treated victims of San Bernadino attack, to attend State of the Union

A nurse who helped care for people injured in last month’s mass shooting in San Bernardino will accompany Rep. Susan Davis to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union Address on Tuesday.

James Parnell, a nurse in the emergency department at Loma Linda University Medical Center, is the San Diego Democrat’s invited guest. Parnell, who previously was an active-duty and reserve medic in the Army, helped set up a care system to treat shooting victims as they were brought to the hospital.

The shooting, which killed 14 and seriously injured 22 others, occurred on an already busy day at the hospital, Parnell said.

“We received the call that we were receiving a mass-casualty shooter incident with at least 20 patients, maybe more,” he said.

With other members of the hospital’s team, he began to prepare for treating victims, and admitted as many patients waiting in the emergency department as possible in order to clear space for the big influx of wounded people. Parnell, 41, of Beaumont, said he helped set up a triage and security area to tend to the less seriously injured, while others set up a space for the more critical patients.

While they were focusing on the patients in their care, they were also working with law enforcement officers, first responders and other healthcare providers in order to provide a thorough care system in the area during the mass shooting.

“It was almost seamless,” he said.

In July, he and other employees from his hospital completed a Federal Emergency Management Agency course to train them to handle a mass-casualty incidents. The three-day program helps healthcare providers prepare for a spectrum of events including shootings, earthquakes and other disasters, where scores of people might be hurt.

“It was a very thorough, intense course. It’s excellent training. I feel like it prepared me well for the incident,” he said.

The hospital also regularly trains for these types of mass casualties. The regular preparations paid off, Parnell said.

“I believe it is important for our hospitals to train, to prepare for these incidents. I believe that’s what helped us to be successful,” he said. “We take it seriously and train often.”

Rep. Scott Peters is also bringing a guest to the annual speech. Joe Musselman, the founder the Honor Foundation, an organization that helps special operations forces transition from their careers in elite military units to the private sector.

The foundation collaborates with the Rady School of Management at UC San Diego to help special operations forces make the career switch. Musselman was attached to the Naval Special Warfare Center, a unit that, amongst other things, is responsible for Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training.

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©2016 The San Diego Union-Tribune
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