Jeffery P. Segall, RN, left work at the salon early and said goodbye to co-workers not knowing it would be the last time he would see some of them.
He lost five close friends at Salon Meritage in Seal Beach on Oct. 12, 2011, in the deadliest shooting in Orange County history. Just minutes after leaving the salon that day, he received a call and text telling him of the stunning news.
Segall, an RN and hair stylist, knew what he needed to do reach into his nursing background to help himself and his six remaining co-workers through the grief. And as soon as possible, return to work.
“You’ve got to get some sense of normalcy,” said Segall, 55, who started working part-time as a stylist at another salon a mere four days later.
Although Segall has been a stylist on and off for 30 years, he graduated from the Long Beach City College ADN program in 1996. After working in oncology for three years at Long Beach Memorial Medical Center, he returned to hair styling.
Peggy Wells, RN, MN, a LBCC nursing professor who teaches mental health to ADN students, said bouncing back that quickly is one way some people can help cope with crisis.
“With the understanding that everyone experiences a crisis differently and that individuals work through the grieving process in their own unique way,” Wells explained, “there are some benefits to resuming a semblance of normalcy as soon as possible.”
The day of the shooting, Segall had a very busy day. Fortunately, two of his clients canceled. One of them was Malinda Wheeler, RN, FNP, SANE-A, SANE-P, who has been his friend and client since she was one of his nursing instructors 16 years ago.
So Segall was able to leave work early, and it probably saved his life.
“See you tomorrow, buddy,” he recalled saying to the salon’s owner, Randy Fannin, before he left to enjoy the great weather.
Soon after, a man with multiple weapons reportedly entered the salon and opened fire. Eight people were killed and one was wounded; Segall was one of the lucky ones that day.Peggy Wells, RN
Fight or flight
Segall returned to the salon as soon as he found out about the shooting.
“It was absolute havoc,” he said. “Once you’ve been through a couple of [emergency] codes, because of nursing, I recognized they were in shock. It was heartbreaking; like looking at zombies. It was a sad, sad day.”
After the tragedy, Segall stepped in to help with practical tasks such as picking up the salon mail. He told people to return to work and not to feel guilty.
“I kind of became the dad,” Segall said. “These people need some help. I don’t know how I would’ve gotten through it without my nursing.”
Co-workers vented to Segall about jumping through emotions like feeling denial, upset, and angry. He explained the Kubler-Ross stages of grief and how they have to work through these stages even though they can jump back and forth through them.
“They would say, ‘Oh my God, this makes so much sense now’,” Segall said.
Theory becomes practice
Wells said the Kubler-Ross theory is still taught to LBCC nursing students. It relates to death and the grieving process, but can be applied to the loss of anything.
“It is important for nursing students to understand their feelings as they apply to healthcare and their patients,” Wells explained. “They need to acknowledge that they will experience grief when patients die, and they need to understand the feelings and accompanying behaviors patients and family are experiencing.”
Segall bounces through the stages of grief himself and is sometimes “downright angry.” At the time of his interview, he thought he was almost to full acceptance and had signed up to start some crisis counseling.
“Now I’m at a point where I’m dealing with my own grief,” Segall said.
Segall has used nursing to help him through many other situations as well, such as the illness and death of his sister and close friends and his condo burning down in 2000.
He has a passion for hospice work, but plans to continue working as a stylist in Seal Beach.
Segall hopes his experience in this tragedy can help others.
“Thank God for Elisabeth Kubler-Ross,” he said. “It should be required reading for every high school student.”