Austin surgeon recalls emergency amputation during OKC bombing

FILE - In this May 5, 1995 file photo, thousands of search and rescue crews attend a memorial service in front of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. More than 600 people were injured in the April 19, 1995 attack and 168 people were killed. Timothy McVeigh was executed in 2001 and Terry Nichols is serving multiple life sentences on federal and state convictions for their convictions in the bombing. (AP Photo/Bill Waugh, FIle)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Sunday marks 20 years since a bomb destroyed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. For one Austin doctor, the memories from that day are still very fresh, even decades later.

Dr. David Tuggle is a currently a Pediatric Surgeon at Dell Children’s Medical Center but in 1995, he was working at Oklahoma Children’s Memorial Hospital.

“In April, usually on Wednesday’s in the morning, we typically had a disaster drill at the hospital because all the tornadoes started in late April, early May,” remembers Tuggle. “So I assumed it was our regular disaster drill.”

But it wasn’t a drill or a natural disaster.

After taking care of pediatric patients who came in right after the bombing, ambulances stopped coming to the hospital. Concerned about the patients at the blast site, Dr. Tuggle and his colleague, Dr. Andy Sullivan, decided to go straight to the blast zone. Police led them to Daina Bradley, a 20-year-old mother of two, was trapped under a collapsed column. Her right leg was pinned under a beam. The doctors had to make a quick decision to safe Bradley’s life.

“Could we cut through the pillar? Could we raise it with the jaws of life? And there was no way. It was just going to bring the building down. So, Andy talked about the options and said, ‘it looks like we are going to have to amputate,'” says Tuggle.

Admist the rubble and debris, the doctors took turns climbing into a hole and working upside down to perform the surgery with nothing more than a scalpel and a pocket knife.

“It took 10 minutes, but it felt like an hour.”

Bradley recovered from her injuries but she lost her children and her mom in the bombing.

Dr. Sullivan still lives and works in Oklahoma City. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Users who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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