Surgeons Start Program in Chicago to Train Bystanders to Treat Shooting Victims

PHOTO: A Chicago Police officer uses a flashlight as he investigates a crime scene where a man was shot in the head as he sat in a vehicle on the 2600 block of West Luther Street, Nov. 16, 2016, in Chicago.PlayJoshua Lott/AFP/Getty Images
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The staggering violence in Chicago this year that has led to more than 700 homicides in 2016 alone, according to The Associated Press, which has led to calls for action but also for help in saving lives. A new program called the Chicago South Side Trauma First Responders Course focuses on training anyone to be able to give lifesaving treatment to trauma victims.

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Started by Dr. Mamta Swaroop, assistant professor of surgery in trauma and critical care at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, and Dr. Leah Tatebe, a trauma and general surgeon at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital in a suburb of Chicago, the program was designed in the hopes that if simple steps are taken immediately after a shooting or other violent event, lives can be saved before an ambulance even arrives.

Swaroop and Tatebe joined forces with the advocate group Cure Violence to understand how residents in Chicago's most violent neighborhoods could be helped with basic medical knowledge. As a trauma surgeon, Swaroop said she had seen first-hand the toll shootings haven taken on residents in Chicago.

"Last spring there was case after case that I kept seeing of patients who were dying ... it came to me that why not have a first responders course that [could] minimize people hemorrhaging out," said Swaroop. "It wasn't one particular case ... it was watching patients bleeding out and dying in the trauma [department.]"

Swaroop also pointed out that her hospital, which has treated many shooting victims, is about a 15-minute drive from the neighborhoods in the South Side of Chicago, where much of the violence has occurred. That means even if an ambulance responded immediately to help a trauma victim, there would still be that 15-minute drive to the ER for treatment and possibly lifesaving surgery.

"Someone can bleed out their entire blood volume in a couple of minutes," Swaroop said.

The classes, scheduled to start later this month, were designed after working with the Cure Violence group and other community members to find out the best way to empower any resident so that they feel they can take lifesaving measures. The first students are expected to be from local community groups based in the neighborhoods that have suffered some of the worst shootings.

"We asked people about what their experiences were with violence and with trauma," Swaroop said. She said many had lived through violent events in which they had no knowledge of how to respond to traumatic injuries. "The feeling of not knowing what to do ... you feel helpless in that situation."

Swaroop said simply teaching people how to properly apply pressure on a wound or helping open someone's airway can make a difference. Currently, she feels that everyone in the city should have basic knowledge of what to do in case of emergency.

"In this day and age you can be anywhere in Chicago and bullets are everywhere. ... You can be in the wrong place and the wrong time," she said. "A bullet does not discriminate one bit."

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