SAN ANTONIO — The grandmother of Salvador Ramos, who killed 21 people in the elementary school shooting last week that tore apart the small Texas community of Uvalde, is slowly recovering from a gunshot wound to the face, a San Antonio hospital said Wednesday.
Celia "Sally" Gonzales, 66, was the shooter's first victim the morning of May 24. Despite her grievous injuries, she managed to call for help and was eventually flown by helicopter more than 80 miles to San Antonio's University Hospital. She arrived in critical condition and has since been upgraded to "good" condition, which typically means that a patient is stable and that recovery is progressing, a hospital spokesperson said.
In addition to the 19 children and two adults who died, at least 17 people had life-threatening wounds caused by the shooter's AR-15-style rifle to less serious punctures and cuts from exploding debris.
Fifteen victims were rushed to Uvalde Memorial Hospital in the minutes after the rampage, including 11 children. Several were transported in school buses, said hospital CEO Thomas Nordwick, who said the first patient arrived around 1:05 p.m., shortly after a Border Patrol agent killed the gunman inside Robb Elementary School.
"They just went to work as they’re trained to do," Nordwick said of the medical staff.
"I'm sure some were treating friends or people they knew," he continued, adding that one hospital employee lost a niece and a nephew.
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Four of the child victims were later airlifted to San Antonio hospitals, and seven were released the same day. Nordwick credited the Southwest Texas Regional Advisory Council, which develops and maintains the region's trauma and emergency response program, with helping to save the lives of the most seriously wounded victims.
Helicopters were on standby at the local airport waiting to transport patients to San Antonio, and donor blood was rushed into Uvalde from surrounding areas. Dr. Ronald Stewart, a senior trauma surgeon at University Hospital and chair of the council's executive committee, previously described the regional response as a "symphony of people."
"You don't want the patients to come here, but you're glad they came," Stewart said in an interview last week. "Many times you have to explain to parents whose child was there at breakfast why they're no longer there by dinner. We didn't have any of those conversations this time."
One of the children initially taken to Uvalde Memorial Hospital was later airlifted to Methodist Children's Hospital in San Antonio with a gunshot wound to the shoulder. He was discharged Sunday evening and is recovering at home, the hospital said.
Two adult victims were taken to Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, one of the region's two Level 1 trauma centers and the only Defense Department hospital with a helipad, a spokesman said. They arrived in critical condition and were upgraded to good condition by Sunday. The spokesman did not disclose the victims' ages or the nature of their injuries but said that generally only people who sustain "combat style" trauma arrive at the facility.
Three victims remain at University Hospital. A 10-year-old girl was in serious condition, and a 9-year-old girl was in good condition. A 10-year-old girl was discharged last week, the hospital said.
All 17 victims who were treated at hospitals were alive as of Wednesday.
According to a GoFundMe campaign verified by the family, Gonzales — the shooter's grandmother — has already undergone four operations and will require more. The family expects it could be months before she returns home.