Tag: gun violence

After Almost a Decade of Activism and Protests, Chicago’s South Side Finally Has an Adult Trauma Center Again

After years of protest, amid an epidemic of gun violence, a Level 1 adult trauma center has opened in Chicago’s South Side. (Credit: Rob Hart)

by Daniel A. Gross via newyorker.com

In August, 2010, an eighteen-year-old named Damian Turner, an aspiring musician and community organizer, was caught in the crossfire of a drive-by shooting on Chicago’s South Side. The bullet entered his body four blocks—one minute by car—from the University of Chicago Medical Center. But paramedics, following protocol, drove him nearly nine miles away, to Northwestern Memorial Hospital. City and state regulations dictate that gunshot victims be taken to a specialized trauma center, and the South Side was a “trauma desert.” Despite its epidemic of gun violence, it has not had its own Level 1 adult trauma center since the nineteen-nineties. At Northwest Memorial, Turner, the co-founder of the youth branch of Southside Together Organizing for Power, or stop, was pronounced dead.

Turner’s death marked the beginning of a movement. His mother told newspapers that he would have lived if not for the university’s lack of facilities. One of Turner’s fellow-activists, Brittany Blaney, suggested at a community meeting that locals hold the U.C.M.C. accountable. A hundred people marched to the hospital from the spot where Turner was shot. A year later, protesters camped out in tents. They argued that the U.C.M.C. had shirked its responsibility to its neighborhood. But university officials resisted. “You would have to transfer resources from the other things we do, and the things we do extraordinarily well and not a lot of other people do, and focus those resources on being an additional trauma center,” a spokesman for the medical center said at the time. Alex Goldenberg, now the executive director of stop, told me, “It took us two years just to get them to acknowledge that it was a problem.” Sharon O’Keefe, the president of the hospital, said, “We were obviously well aware of the community that we reside in. But it took us quite a period of time to really evaluate the broader needs of the community.”

One of the activists’ demands was that the university, which operated a pediatric trauma center, raise the age limit on admittance for children with gunshot wounds. In December, 2014, the university announced that it would raise the limit by two years, to include anyone younger than eighteen. This was a start. A few months later, during the university’s Alumni Weekend, Goldenberg and eight others locked themselves inside a university administration building. The fire department had to cut its way in with axes.

O’Keefe told me that, around that time, the hospital was considering “a more comprehensive plan that was more responsive to the demands of the community,” but it needed a way to cover the costs. “What we didn’t want to do was come up with a short-term response,” she told me. In September, 2015, the university announced plans to co-found a trauma center at Holy Cross Hospital, west of U.C.M.C. But officials soon realized that it would be too costly to help run a new facility five miles away. Finally, the following December, Goldenberg got an unexpected call from a university vice-president. “I have good news for you,” he said. The medical center had decided to open a Level 1 adult trauma center on campus.

The new center opens on May 1st. One of the doctors who will work there is Abdullah Pratt, a resident in emergency medicine. We first met about a year after the university announced its intention to open the trauma center, in a nearly empty U.C.M.C. waiting area, just after sunrise. Pratt, who has a thick beard and wears horn-rimmed glasses, had been working at the hospital since six o’clock the previous evening, and he looked it. He had seen patients with liver failure, vaginal bleeding, and cancer. “This is my fifth straight overnight shift,” he said. But he had stuck around to tell me about the trauma center, and the years of community activism that helped make it happen.

Pratt grew up on the South Side, just south of the hospital, which makes him extremely unusual among University of Chicago medical students and faculty. His was a neighborhood of both poverty and promise, shared by lawyers, athletes, gang members, and drug addicts. One of his friends was shot and killed after he bumped into a man’s girlfriend at a club, spilling her drink. “Everybody’s got a closet full of T-shirts with their friends or family members on it,” he said. Following in the footsteps of his brother Rashad, Pratt attended science camps and played high-school football. He went to college at Valparaiso. By the time he entered medical school, he was living in a high-rise apartment on the edge of Lake Michigan. Once, he showed it off to his brother, who reminded him of the importance of giving back to his community. “Never sell out,” Rashad told him. “You ain’t gonna be shit if you don’t put on for your block.”

Seven months later, Pratt got a call from his mother about Rashad. “He been shot,” she told him. “He’s killed.” Rashad had been sitting in his truck, in front of a friend’s house, when a stranger approached him with a gun. Rashad owned a handgun and tried to defend himself, but he was shot below the ribs, and the bullet hit his heart. “I don’t think that the pain will ever get as bad as that,” Pratt told me. “I know that there’s nobody immune from it. Every young person that I mentor, every one of my friends, has lost somebody. It’s a collective pain.”

After the shooting, Pratt considered taking a break from school. But he thought about his brother’s commitment to giving back, and he listened to a mentor who told him, “You have to use this.” Although a local trauma center would not have saved Rashad’s life, Pratt knew that it could save many others. “I began fighting for those issues, and stopping violence, and going to more of the community demonstrations,” he said. He eventually met with university officials, including O’Keefe, and tried to serve as a mediator between frustrated community members and the U.C.M.C. bureaucracy. “It was literally the only thing that allowed me to sleep at night,” he said.

Chicago first standardized its trauma-center network after the shooting death of another young black man, Benji Wilson, in 1984. Wilson was a seventeen-year-old basketball star. He was shot twice, in Chatham, on the South Side. He died after a long wait for an ambulance and a belated surgery at a local hospital that did not specialize in trauma. Several South Side institutions, including the University of Chicago, subsequently opened adult trauma centers. But trauma care is costly, serves patients who are not always able to pay, and receives little government support. The U.C.M.C. trauma center, which opened in 1986, was a financial failure, and it closed in 1988. “Then we got out of the business,” O’Keefe told me. Within a few years, every Level 1 adult trauma center on the South Side had shut down. In 2013, a study of Chicago gunshot victims showed that those who were shot more than five miles from a trauma center were disproportionately black and uninsured. Not surprisingly, they died at higher rates than other gunshot victims.

Selwyn Rogers, who was hired to direct the new adult trauma center, said he was initially surprised when he learned the U.C.M.C. didn’t already have one. But he hopes that the center can reduce the stark inequality between the university and its surroundings. He pointed out that Hyde Park, the university’s immediate neighborhood, has a life expectancy of more than eighty years. “Literally within a mile of where the University of Chicago sits, in Washington Park, the life expectancy is sixty-nine,” he said.

In addition to building a new emergency department, the U.C.M.C. has hired eighteen medical faculty and numerous staff members, so that patients have around-the-clock access to specialized care.

To read full article, go to: https://www.newyorker.com/news/dispatch/chicagos-south-side-finally-has-an-adult-trauma-center-again

UPDATE: Detroit Dad Curtis White and Daughter Dreia Davis Surprised With Furnished, Disability-Friendly Home

Dreia Davis and her father Curtis White, enter their new home for the first time on Wednesday, September 23, 2015, in Detroit. The handicap-friendly furnished house and a van were donated to the family by Detroit Rescue Mission. (Photo: Salwan Georges / freep.com)
Dreia Davis and her father Curtis White, enter their new home for the first time on Wednesday, September 23, 2015, in Detroit. The accessible-friendly furnished house and a lift van were donated to the family by Detroit Rescue Mission.
(Photo: Salwan Georges / freep.com)

DETROIT – Dreia Davis couldn’t help but smile as as she gazed around her bedroom and clutched the key to her new home.  “It’s so beautiful,” Davis said. “I’m so thankful. I feel fabulous.”

For Davis and her father, Curtis White, it has been a long journey since she was struck by a bullet from a passing car on Detroit’s east side and nearly killed on Aug. 5, 2009, when she was 13. She suffered two heart attacks and a stroke, and underwent numerous surgeries. White was told it was likely she would not survive.

But now, the devoted dad and teen finally have a happy ending after receiving a lift van and a debt-free, furnished home that accommodates her disabilities Wednesday from Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries.

“I’m speechless,” White said, as he cried. “Oh, this is perfect. I love it. I am so overwhelmed. This is a blessing. I’m ready to move in. This is the best feeling in the world.”

This past July, GBN shared the story of Davis and White’s struggle and perseverance in the face of adversity. Since then, nearly $13,000 has been donated to the family in a GoFundMe account, Dreia The Miracle, that was launched by family friend Keifer Stephens.

“It’s a dream come true for me,” Stephens said. “I’ve been looking forward to this from day one. I haven’t seen her talking this much, Curtis smiling and crying, like this in so long. It’s a joyful moment.”

More than 20 people gathered Wednesday to watch the family get their new home, including Wayne County Executive Warren Evans. Their new neighbors, including a retired Detroit firefighter, came to welcome them.

For Evans, seeing Davis and her father was a special moment.

“I was chief of (Detroit) police at the time and responded to the hospital the night of the actual tragedy,” Evans said. “It’s just wonderful to be able to come back years later to see what Detroit Rescue Missions has been able to do. She’s rebounded tremendously. She has goals, dreams and aspirations, and she’s not going to be defined by this injury. The dad has the patience of Job. He’s been waiting on her hand and foot, which loving fathers do, but it doesn’t make it easy. So this helps to make it easy for them both.”

Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries President Chad Audi said the plan to get the family a home came together after a FOX 2 News reporter connected him with the family. Their previous home was small, cramped and not properly equipped.

The new house is near 7 Mile in a close-knit, tree-lined neighborhood. It has two bedrooms, a large basement, kitchen and a dining room. Audi said White will have to pay taxes and utilities and maintain the house, but he will be the sole owner.  The bathroom was retrofitted to fit Davis’ wheelchair and to allow her to bathe herself, which has been a stress on White. The house’s upgrades and furniture totaled around $21,000.

“It is so exciting,” Audi said. “I’m so excited that she gain her freedom and her dignity. It is her house and her dad’s house forever. … We are thankful to God that we are finally able to give this deserving family a home.”

The shooting left Davis in a wheelchair, but she has beaten the odds. She attends Jerry L. White Center High School in Detroit and is set to graduate and receive her diploma in 2016. She plans to enroll at the Wayne County Community College Districtfor courses she hopes will lead toward becoming a lawyer.

Davis also has her eyes set on a new goal: being able to walk by Feb. 2, 2017. White said she’s set to begin intensive therapy in the coming weeks.  “I want to walk when I’m 21,” she said, smiling coyly.

Although Davis loves the new home, van and support she has gotten from the community, nothing matters more than the love from her father.  “This all means so much,” she said, hugging White. “But I just want to thank my daddy so much for sticking by my side. I love you, Daddy.”

White, who has had to check on his daughter often to make sure she doesn’t fall out of bed or have other problems, is excited that he’ll finally be able to get more than four hours of sleep at a time. But he’ll never stop being a doting father.

“I’ll never stop,” he said. “I’m always watching her. All of this? Everything I’ve done is just a testament of my love. Doctors told me she wouldn’t make it, then they said she wouldn’t make it past a few years. But here she is today. Look at her now. She beat those odds six years later. The world is hers now. She’s going to walk. She’s made it this far.”

article by Katrease Stafford, Detroit Free Press via usatoday.com

Detroit Dad Curtis White’s Love Helps Carry Injured Teen Daughter Who Survived Gunfire

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Gunshot survivor Dreia Davis and her father Curtis White  (photo: Salwan Georges/Detroit Free Press)

Dreia Davis shouldn’t be alive.  Yet she is.  Doctors were doubtful Davis would survive after she was shot in the face in a drive-by shooting on Detroit’s east side in August 2009.

But she did.

Although the shooting left Davis in a wheelchair, she has continued to beat the odds, despite setbacks and recurring nightmares of that late summer night, when she nearly lost her life at age 13.  Two heart attacks, numerous surgeries and a stroke later, Davis, 19, is determined to reclaim her life and achieve her dream of attending the University of Michigan and becoming a defense attorney.

There’s no denying Davis still has a long road ahead, but she has found unparallelled love and support in the one person who has remained by her side, caring for her and pushing her forward: her father, Curtis White.  “It feels great to have him in my life,” she said while gripping his hand. “He’s had me since I was 3 weeks old. I love him.”

White, a single father, has relatively no help in caring for his daughter. Her mother, who still lives in Detroit, is not in the picture, White said, and his own family is unable to help.

But the father and daughter have formed a bond that grows each day.

“She’s my daughter, my best friend,” White, 45, said. “She knows me inside and out. It’s us against them. It’s us against the world. We beat the odds. We can do anything together. Me taking care of her, that’s second nature. I never had my dad, and I went through hell not knowing my dad. … So I have to be there, be here for her. That’s what’s given me the drive to do this for her. Since she’s come this far, the sky’s the limit. I’m never going to give up on her.”

Davis was a lively teen.  She was a popular, nearly straight-A student and a head cheerleader at Greenfield Union School, on 7 Mile and Charleston.  Before the shooting Aug. 5, 2009, Davis asked her father whether she could go to her friend’s house. He said yes. But later, he discovered she had caught the bus to go to another friend’s home, where he specifically told her not to go.

“Like a typical teen, she was being rebellious,” he said.  He called her and told her to come home.  “I told her, ‘Don’t make me come over there and get you,’ ” he said. “She promised she would make it home. The last thing I heard from her was, ‘Daddy, I’m on my way home. I love you.’ 

He started pacing when 8 p.m. came.  Then 9 p.m. passed.  As 10 p.m. neared, a feeling of dread swept across White. “I could feel it in my stomach,” he said. “I couldn’t pinpoint it, but something was not right.”

Minutes later, his daughter’s aunt called. In a trembling voice, she told him to come to the hospital immediately.  “I couldn’t even comprehend what she was telling me,” he said. ” ‘Shot in the head?’ ‘What do you mean?’ As soon as I got there, they met me with the chaplains in the emergency room and I was already thinking it was over.”

Davis, an innocent bystander, was shot at the corner of Emery and Eureka, near 7 Mile on the city’s east side, while she talked to some friends. She was the only one injured.

“All it took was one unfortunate night of her not listening for a tragedy to occur,” White said.

After she was shot, Davis was rushed to the hospital and taken into the ICU, where doctors used an automatic external defibrillator to shock her heart back into rhythm after she suffered a heart attack on the operating table.

Doctors told White that his daughter had a 7% chance of making it.  “I just lost my mind. That’s my only child,” he said. “From there, it was a whole lot of hoping, praying and being at the hospital 24/7. When I saw her in the emergency recovery room, I was shocked. Her head had swelled up to the size of a pumpkin.”

After several months on life support, doctors told White it was likely his daughter wouldn’t recover, and that he might have to consider removing the support.

“Doctors were telling me she was going to be a vegetable,” he said. “After the second heart attack and stroke, I started considering it. But I had a good cousin that came down from Battle Creek. She said: ‘God can do anything. Put your faith in God.’ And I swear on my life, that as soon as I did that, she made a drastic turnaround.”

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How Former Youth Gun Toter Camiella Williams Became a Gun Reform Activist

camiellaCamiella Williams grew up in a violent neighborhood in Chicago and bought herself a gun for $25 when she was in sixth grade. Tired of all the death and pain around her, Camiella has changed her life and is now working toward peace.

As an activist and gun reform advocate, the 26-year-old speaks about the ways people can reduce gun violence. She told MTV Act about her background, the reality of the underground market for guns and ways that our generation can truly make a difference.

ACT: You grew up around violence and were used to it. What experiences changed your views on gun violence and inspired you to make a difference?

CAMIELLA: My personal stories changed my views. I have been affected by gun violence directly and indirectly. I’ve lost loved ones to gun violence, and I’ve seen violence. My home was shot up before. My neighbors upstairs were shot and killed. The blood was still on my porch. Seeing all this is what made me want to make a difference. I got tired of going to funerals. I got tired of crying and living in sorrow. That’s basically what it was: You go to a funeral every other week.

ACT: Many people are unaware of the underground market for guns. Can you tell us a bit about it?

CAMIELLA: In the community I grew up in — Englewood, on the south side of Chicago — guns are very accessible because they were selling them in hole-in-wall restaurants and hole-in-a-wall apartments and unnamed convenient stores. If you want a gun, you can get a gun. You don’t have to have a FOID [Firearms Owners Identification] card, you don’t have to be 18 or 21. If you say, “Hey, I want a gun,” and you know somebody who can get you a gun, they’ll get it for you. 

Camiella 4

ACT: Some people feel that gun reform would infringe on their Second Amendment rights. What are your thoughts on this?

CAMIELLA: Gun reform will not infringe on Second Amendment rights. First you have to think about our rights to live in peace and be happy. The issue that people do not understand is that in order for these guns to become illegal, they were once legal. Meaning that someone — a straw purchaser [someone who buys a gun for someone else who can’t legally buy them or doesn’t want their name tracked] or a gun dealer — went and bought these guns and brought them back to the community and is there selling them. They look at it as, “You shot somebody? I sold you the gun, yeah, so what? You shoot somebody, that’s on you.”

For example, in 2006, Starkesia Reed was shot and killed in Englewood. Her shooter went to a gun dealer and bought an AK-47 [an assault rifle originally made for the military] for $150. He shot up the block and a bullet ending up going through her eye. When I went to court with the family of Starkesia Reed, the gun dealer testified, “Yeah, I sold him the AK-47.” And that was it. He knew [the killer’s] I.D. was fake, there wasn’t a thorough background check. He knew he didn’t look like a hunter, but he sold him the gun anyway. And now we have an innocent 14-year-old girl dead. The gun dealers are not being held accountable.

Continue reading “How Former Youth Gun Toter Camiella Williams Became a Gun Reform Activist”

Activists Peacefully Advocate for Change; Plead With Obama For Gun Control Action

White House Vigil Gun Control

Gun control advocates and past victims of gun violence gathered outside the White House on Friday evening urging President Barack Obama to address gun laws. (Photo credit: Jennifer Bendery)

WASHINGTON — Friday’s shooting in Newtown, Conn., put the spotlight on President Barack Obama politically and, for many people, it was personal, as dozens turned up outside the White House gates begging him to take action on gun control.  Activists, sympathetic parents, and those affected by gun violence in the past gathered to collectively grieve at the impromptu vigil. They chanted, lit candles handed out by advocacy groups, and pleaded for political action in the wake of the latest episode of gun violence to afflict the nation.

Continue reading “Activists Peacefully Advocate for Change; Plead With Obama For Gun Control Action”