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Okla. tornado injuries: Even the doctors are 'crying'

May 21, 2013 at 9:15 AM ET

Video: Dr. Nancy Snyderman, NBC’s chief medical editor, discusses the injuries and trauma that medical staff have been dealing with in storm-ravaged Oklahoma, saying “everyone is exhausted” and “psychologically traumatized.”

Even the doctors are crying in tornado-ravaged Oklahoma.

The monster tornado that swept through the Oklahoma City suburbs Monday afternoon that has claimed at least 24 lives has also wounded more than 120.

The most common types of injures from the twister are crush injuries, gruesome impalements and major lacerations, Dr. Nancy Snyderman, who is in Moore, Okla., told TODAY. Most of the injuries are the result of flying debris.

Snyderman credited emergency officials with acting quickly to save lives.

“I’ve talked to head of trauma unit at the University of Oklahoma and she underscored that it was the first responders that really have been instrumental in making sure so many people’s lives were saved,” Snyderman said.

Emergency workers did a good job in immediately getting the very severely wounded patients to trauma centers, Snyderman said, and noted that the injury count could be higher because many patients are treated and immediately released without being counted.

Still, she said, people should seek medical help if they are suffering from memory loss, headache or confusion that is “beyond the norm,” Snyderman said.

“Anybody like that, or pain that suddenly wasn’t there before, that’s when you go back to the hospital,” she said.

While patients can sometimes be discharged too early, she said doctors have been taking a careful approach.

“A lot of times these decisions have to be made in the moment and, yes, sometimes people can be discharged inappropriately,” Snyderman said. “But, I think in this case, what’s happened in Oklahoma is they have brought people into the hospital and at least observed them for 24 hours and then they’ll slowly let them go home."

“They intelligently jumped on this right away,” she said.

A concern is that so many patients, once they are discharged, no longer have a place to call home.

“The physical devastation here, people injured, psychologically traumatized and in some cases they don’t have places to go home to,” Snyderman said.

The psychological concerns extend to the medical personnel as well, Snyderman said.

“The one thing I think the doctors and nurses have to worry about now is their psychiatric help and making sure they’re there for each other,” Snyderman said. “Even the surgeons said they’ve been crying.”

And after an earlier tornado in Shawnee, Okla., medical personnel are growing tired.

“Everyone’s exhausted,” Snyderman said. “I could hear it in their voices.”

“People are now not only recovering from the tornado earlier in the weekend with Shawnee, but this is like the big second sucker punch,” Snyderman said.

Smartphone users: Watch TODAY's live coverage of Oklahoma tornado tragedy

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