Shooting victim's mom calls for more trauma centers

September 28, 2010 (CHICAGO)

The family staged a protest march at the University of Chicago Tuesday afternoon. Dozens of friends and neighbors of 18-year-old Damian Turner took to the streets.

"Damian was happy, energetic, loved life, loved people," said Turner's mother, Sheila Rush.

Turner was shot last month at 61st and Cottage Grove. There were multiple hospitals nearby, including the University of Chicago Medical Center, which is less than half a mile away.

However, because University of Chicago and all other South Side hospitals lack a level one trauma center, Turner was taken to one that has one, Northwestern Memorial Hospital, almost ten miles away.

"South side, North Side, West Side - no one should have to travel so many blocks just to have their life saved," said Rush.

Though it is uncertain whether a closer trauma center might have saved Turner's life, his death has renewed questions about why the South Side, which continues to be plagued by violence, lacks a facility that can offer more immediate and comprehensive surgical care.

The University of Chicago's trauma center closed in 1988 because, according to officials, it was draining resources from other departments, including its world-renowned burn unit, and its cancer and transplant centers.

"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," said University of Chicago Medical Center spokesman John Easton.

The University of Chicago does have a pediatric trauma center, and turner could have been treated there had he been two years younger.

Chicago has four level one trauma centers, but currently, many South Side shooting victims are taken out of the city to Advocate Christ Hospital in Oak Lawn, which treats 4000 trauma cases a year and is 40 blocks off the Dan Ryan.

"We meet the state's standard, but the state's standard of 30 minutes is 30 minutes," said Advocate Christ Hospital Trauma Surgery Director Dr. James Doherty. "If you can get there in 10 minutes, that's better."

Still, trauma centers treat a large number of uninsured people, and that high cost can be a deterrent for hospitals, something Rush does not want to hear.

"If they can put a heart into someone's chest, if they can put a liver in someone, they can save someone who's only a block away," said Rush.

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