Exclusive Interview with Thousand Oak’s Nurse; Jessica Urquiza

One RN’s Heartbreaking Response to the Thousand Oaks Shooting

On Wednesday, November 7th, a gunman opened fire at the Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks, California, just 40 miles west of Los Angeles, killing 12 people including Ventura Country Sgt. Ron Helus, a 29-year veteran of the force. Several 9-1-1 calls were made, and police rushed onto the scene where Helus was killed.

The shooter, who died from an apparent suicide, has been identified as 28-year-old Ian David Long, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, who was armed with a legally-purchased .45 caliber handgun. Several victims of the shooting were rushed to the trauma unit at Los Robles Regional Medical Center in Thousand Oaks.

Some of the other victims include: 22-year-old Cody Coffman, Pepperdine University student Aliana Housley, Telemachus Orfanos, who was also present during the Las Vegas mass shooting last October, 23-year-old Justin Meek who recently graduated from Thousand Oaks’ California Lutheran University, and 21-year-olds Noel Sparks and Blake Dingman.

We spoke with Jessica Urquiza who had been a nurse at Los Robles Regional Medical Center for six months at the time of the shooting. She’s a recent nursing school grad that’s specializing in medical/surgical nursing. As a longtime member of the community, Urquiza has deep ties to the victims of the shooting.

Dealing with the Aftermath of the Shooting

On the night of the shooting, Urquiza recalls, “My first reaction was shock: is this really happening? That’s the first thing we all think. Nurses cope because we’re trained for this. We go into nurse mode and the adrenaline takes over. But for me, it hit home harder. Borderline was a big part of my life.”

Urquiza grew up in Thousand Oaks and currently lives half a mile from the Borderline Bar & Grill. When talking about the aftermath of the shooting, she said, “Borderline is a space where everyone comes together. We’re a tight knit community and that bar is the glue for a lot of that. I tend to go there a lot, ever since I was 18. Wednesday night is college night. I’ve been there on college night before and it’s very popular, one of the only places that young adults can go. A place for friendship. I lost friends that night, some survived, some didn’t.

Urquiza believes it could’ve just as easily been her that lost her life on that tragic night. She states, “I was just returning from vacation when this happened, and, had I not been on vacation, I very well could have been at Borderline Wednesday night just like my friends.”

Some of Urquiza’s friends were even present during last year’s mass shooting in Las Vegas. “Looking back on it, a year isn’t enough time to reflect. Having to relive it a year later, the shock, the fear, it doesn’t get any easier. It all comes racing back.”

Looking Towards the Future

When talking about what can be done to prevent this in the future, Urquiza said, “It’s a tough question. I’m not sure arming civilians is the solution. It takes more than civilians to take a stand. It takes a lot of training and courage to respond in the moment when bullets are flying and everyone’s trying to get out alive. I’m just so grateful to the first responders.”

She also added, “The problem is also a mental health issue. It’s a real problem and we need more advocates for it, more programs, more mental health screenings. When someone needs help, we can’t afford to look the other way at this point.”

When asked what advice she would give to nurses in a similar position, Urquiza said, “It’s crazy what 6 months of being a nurse will do to you. On a broader level, be passionate and empathetic, It’s not something they teach you in nursing school. You’re either born with it or you’re not. Anger comes from fear. But try to stay calm.”

A Message to the Community

On her last note, Urquiza noted, “I want to remind everyone how strong we are. We’re #ThousandOakStrong. My prayers and condolences are with everyone affected. Stay strong and support each other as best you can.”

Jessica Urquiza is an RN at Los Robles Hospital, Thousand Oaks.

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