A Survivor's Story
Two years after the Saugus High School shooting, a survivor and her trauma surgeon reflect on a journey of healing
It’s been nearly two years since a 16-year-old student, armed with a .45 caliber semiautomatic handgun, entered the campus of Saugus High School. He shot five students, killing two, before turning the gun on himself.
On November 14, 2019, Mia Tretta was a freshman at Saugus in Santa Clarita. It was a day like any other, with friends hanging out in the quad discussing an upcoming Spanish test and the next day’s school dance.
“Then, suddenly, there were bangs and I was on the ground,” Mia recalls.
Amid the chaos, Mia ran across campus, up two flights of stairs to her Spanish class and sat in her regular assigned seat. It wasn’t until a classmate noticed her injuries and asked if she was okay that she replied calmly, “No, I was shot.”
Mia was airlifted to Providence Holy Cross Medical Center, where she and her mother were greeted by the entire trauma team — including Boris Borazjani, MD, who would be her trauma surgeon that day.
Dr. Borazjani remembers Mia’s calm demeanor as she emerged from the helicopter. “She was stoic,” he says. “She was talking. She was even smiling despite being shot.”
As the trauma team worked quickly to repair the damage to Mia’s lower abdomen, the spiritual care team tended to her parents’ concerns and needs.
“I really felt like the people at Holy Cross were my family,” says Mia’s mother, Tiffany Tretta. “I never felt alone there. No one ever left my side.”
Dr. Borazjani describes trauma medicine at Providence Holy Cross as a “team sport” — one that requires careful coordination of a wide variety of staff members, including not only the trauma surgeon, emergency room physician and anesthesiologist, but also the nurses, administrators and spiritual care team.
The spiritual team in particular, he says, contributes not only to the culture of the hospital, but also to the quality of patient care. The emphasis on spiritual support is one of the distinguishing features of the medical center.
“Providence Holy Cross is a faith-based hospital that really lives up to its mission statement, providing the same level of care irrespective of race, color, religion or financial background. It’s our culture,” reflects Dr. Borazjani.
He also notes the crucial role of community support in putting that mission into motion for patients. “We do have to rely on philanthropy to help us … and we want to support the things they believe in and that make sense to them,” he says. “It shouldn’t be like, ‘I’m just giving you money.’ It should be like, ‘This is what it went towards — and look what it’s doing for us.’”
Today, with the help of her family and her Providence Holy Cross medical team, Mia is healing well. She recently underwent a nerve block to address ongoing pain from her injuries. And she continues to receive extensive therapy for the emotional effects of the trauma.
Meanwhile, Mia has become an advocate for the Stop the Bleed program, which encourages training to use kits to save lives during bleeding emergencies like the one she endured. She regularly makes presentations, sharing her story with schools and churches throughout the community.
Now in eleventh grade, Mia is active in choir at Saugus High School, and is considering her college options. She plans to go into medicine.
“She’s definitely been doing all the right things,” says Dr. Borazjani. “She’s taken a tragic, traumatic event and has turned it in the right direction.”
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