photo Bill Eppridge, Time, 1970
We all did stories on trauma care over this last week. Don Terry at the Chicago News Coop beat me to the punch on this, but I feel failed to adequately answer the question of “Why is there no trauma care on the South Side?”
My story delves deeper into the specific shortcomings of the trauma care network and the incremental steps that were originally planned, but never implemented. I did get some recognition from the state that this is a problem and there are “committees” looking into it and making suggestions. It’s pretty clear that the suggestions [pdf] are aimed at addressing the problems downstate.
One of the things I chose to leave out of my story is the highly problematic state data for the trauma patients treated. It’s difficult to control for when air-lifts became widely used in the city, the general advancement of emergency care procedures, and changing social issues. At the outset, the trauma network was problematic, partially because some ambulance drivers in the 1970s often refused to go into black neighborhoods after 1 a.m., leaving gunshot victims to wait until the morning at places like St. Bernard Hospital, which has never been equipped to treat trauma patients. At some point, I also need to explore my suspicion that this past disregard could be lingering, causing some trauma victims to never seek medical attention. To say the least, the numbers are problematic.
This is an issue I hope to continue pursuing. The first of my stories, which hits newsstands today in the Lakefront Outlook and Hyde Park Herald, follows.
South Siders twice as far from trauma care
At 12:08 a.m. Aug. 15, Damien Turner was shot in the back. Ten minutes later he was hurtling up South Lake Shore Drive in the back of an ambulance to Northwestern Memorial Hospital, where he died 10 miles from where he was shot at the corner of East 61st Street and South Cottage Grove Avenue — less than four blocks from the University of Chicago’s hospital.
“I’m not going to bury my head and let his memory die away,” said his mother, Shelia Rush, at a rally Sept. 28 in front of the university’s hospital, vowing to work toward opening a trauma center on the South Side that could have treated her 18-year-old son.
Rush, surrounded by dozens of supporters from the community organization her son founded, Fearless Leadership by the Youth, called on the university to reopen its long-shuttered trauma center.
Since 1989 when the university and Michael Reese Hospital closed their trauma centers, residents of the South Side, including Hyde Park, live in the only neighborhoods in Chicago to be 10 miles or more from a hospital that can treat victims of gunshot wounds, stabbings or car accidents — such as the motorist who crashed a car that then burst into flames on South Lake Shore Drive at East 51st Street on Sept. 25.
All residents of the North and West sides of the city live less than five miles from a trauma center.
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