Jan 27, 2017, 4:43 AM ET

In Chicago, Witnesses to Violence Turn to First Aid to Save Lives

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On a chilly Saturday, 20 volunteers sat in a movie theater-turned-church located on Chicago’s South Side, taking detailed notes on how to properly tie a tourniquet, take a pulse and stop the bleeding from a serious injury as part of the inaugural Chicago South Side Trauma First Responders Course.

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The course is a first-of-its-kind for the city, which had 762 homicides last year, according to the Chicago Police Department.

For the volunteers, the violence and shootings that have plagued the city are not an abstract concept but a part of daily life.

One participant, Caleb Jacobs, 23, has a quarter-sized scar from where he was stabbed in his abdomen in downtown Chicago in April 2014. That night, with blood seeping through his shirt, Jacobs thought about an alien movie he had seen with his brother, he told ABC News.

“A part of the movie he was bitten by one of the aliens, and he took the tooth out, [blood] gushing out, and he just packed it with his shirt and put pressure to it,” Jacobs said, recalling a character in the film.

In order to save his own life, Jacobs mimicked the movie, lying down on the sidewalk to put pressure on the wound, and waited for help.

“The littlest things and sometimes the littlest information can be a big part of saving your life,” Jacobs said.

PHOTO: Caleb Jacobs,23, recounted the moment he was stabbed in downtown Chicago. Angel Canales/ABC News
Caleb Jacobs,23, recounted the moment he was stabbed in downtown Chicago.

Dr. Mamta Swaroop, 39, a trauma surgeon at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, created the Chicago South Side Trauma First Responders Course and wants to give all trainees basic knowledge of what to do in a situation like the one Jacobs faced so that they don't have to rely on vaguely remembered movie scenes for medical guidance.

Swaroop came up with the idea for the course after having multiple patients bleed out to death before they could be saved at the hospital. She noticed many had wounds in their arms and legs that, if properly bandaged, may have been survivable.

“The worst thing in the world is when you have to tell families over and over and over again that there was literally nothing you could do for their family member,” she said.

For years, many South Side residents have been frustrated by the lack of trauma centers in the area despite the high level of violence. While there are four level 1 adult trauma centers, designed to treat the most serious traumatic injuries, in Chicago itself and 19 total in Cook County, few are close to the southern portion of the county.

The average time for paramedics to arrive on the scene after getting a 911 call is six minutes, according to the Chicago Fire Department. But paramedics can be delayed if the police need to secure a scene, and it can take far longer to get a patient to a trauma center.

A 2013 study in the American Journal of Public Health examined data on 11,744 patients with gunshot wounds and found that 4,782 were shot more than five miles from a trauma center in the Chicago area. These patients had a mean transport time (from when the call came in to when they arrived in the hospital) of approximately 16 minutes compared to 10 minutes for people shot less than five miles from a trauma center.

PHOTO: A map of Chicagos level 1 trauma centers are seen here.ABC News
A map of Chicago's level 1 trauma centers are seen here.

Nearly one in five trauma patients in Chicago are “undertriaged” or going to hospitals not designated to treat their severe injuries, according to a study published earlier this month in JAMA Surgery. Co-author Lee Friedman explained this likely has to do with a lack of trauma centers in violent neighborhoods.

"People are being self-transported to these community hospitals ... it's not a failure of EMS," Friedman told ABC News in an earlier interview. "It's people saying, 'Let's get this person to [any hospital].'"

Swaroop doesn’t think her class will be the answer to the soaring numbers of victims or the long transport times. But she hopes to make a dent and empower residents to step up and save lives.

“I feel like this course is a Band-Aid,” she explained. “'Til the infrastructure, 'til the city, 'til everything else catches up. This is something that can be a stopgap.”

PHOTO: Dr. Mamta Swaroop, a trauma surgeon at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, designed the course after having patients die on the way to the hospital. Angel Canales/ABC News
Dr. Mamta Swaroop, a trauma surgeon at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, designed the course after having patients die on the way to the hospital.

To ensure the course addresses the needs of people who live in these dangerous areas, Swaroop partnered with Cure Violence/CeaseFire Illinois, a violence prevention initiative that hires and works with people in the most violent neighborhoods to prevent further violence from occurring. She worked with the initiative to design the course and find people willing to come in on a Saturday to learn first-aid techniques.

LeVon Stone, the director of CeaseFire Illinois, said in some areas shooting or stabbing victims are often driven more than eight miles in order to reach a level 1 trauma center.

“We knew there was a need for someone to have some type of training,” Stone said. “[If] something was to happen in the community, they could possibly help save a life.”

PHOTO: Chicago residents are learning how to treat traumatic injuries among rising rates of violence and shootings. Angel Canales/ABC News
Chicago residents are learning how to treat traumatic injuries among rising rates of violence and shootings.

During the first session earlier this month, Swaroop, along with other doctors and nurses from Northwestern Memorial Hospital, gave training on how to clear airways, move injured people from a busy intersection and minimize bleeding. But they also listened to the stories of the community members, many of whom have worked for years trying to reduce violence in their neighborhoods.

Priscilla Simes, a member of the regional grassroots social justice organization TARGET Area, recalled the moment a young man had been shot outside the organization's offices just yards from where the first responders class was now taking place.

“The only thing that I knew to do was to grab his hand and pray,” Simes said. “This class here, even with our own family, our own children, we’ll know what to do [now].”

At the end of the session, Swaroop gave out certificates and cards for everyone so that if they step in to help, they can give the cards to paramedics or police officers as proof of their training. When Jacobs came up, Swaroop gave him a big hug.

The night Jacobs was stabbed, he was taken less than two miles to Northwestern Memorial Hospital, where doctors including Swaroop were able to save his life. He ended up losing his spleen, pancreas and part of his colon. Despite all that, he said he's lucky he was stabbed less than two miles from the hospital.

“I could have got stabbed anywhere, but at least it was downtown ... at least I wasn’t here,” he said from his current home on Chicago’s South Side near Lake Michigan. He explained that if he had been injured in his current neighborhood, the ambulance would have had to travel nine miles to get to Northwestern.

If that had been the case, “I wouldn't be here,” he said.

News - In Chicago, Witnesses to Violence Turn to First Aid to Save Lives

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  • IAMPEACE

    The 1st and foremost that a city of violence has to do is look at the City and State politicians. Billions go to both in city and state taxes, as well as real estate taxes, and fees. utility expenses, and other expenses that all residents pay.
    If the funds received to the city and state by the citizens in that city and state actually went to where it is suppose to go. There would be enough funds for recreational facilities, more libraries, updated schools and security. More resources to assist the illiterate and better stronger laws.
    If kids are loitering, and decreasing the value of the neighborhood. Make laws to put them in community service. Make them clean up the areas they are destroying.
    How many hoodlums parade on the steps and corners and your child has to pass them in the morning going to school and coming home from school.
    Make laws against loitering. Community service. meeting someone is different but when the same people are their day and night, that is not just meeting a person. That is controlling and owning that corner. Politicians don't make correct laws, because deprivation keeps them in office. Keeping illiteracy keeps them in office. And don't say Democrats only. Republican Governors and mayors purposely take funding out of inner cities to keep them at a low level as well.
    The only thing residents can do is raise their own children to become future better leaders, and vote out the ones in control of your city and state that are keeping it at that level.

  • RivkaMaria

    As a former EMT and instructor of Advanced First Aid and Infant, Child and Adult CPR, I would so much like to be involved in a program like this. Kudos to the dr and to all who are taking this course. Lives will be saved as a consequence. Naysayers, unless you've been to Chicago and seen what it is like in some parts of the city, hush.

  • go_rangers

    SMH at how dumbed down elements of our society are. He had to think of a movie scene to have some first aid concepts in his empty head. Guess he was never a boy scout.

  • trillion1

    Great to see people stepping up to help themselves and their neighbors.

  • DWIN

    I'm watching tonight's evening news (local Chicago), and one of our esteemed lady alderpersons, from the southside, was talking about how when Trump speaks, about federal cops guarding the worst street corners in Chicago, it spreads terrible fear throughout these areas of the city.
    My reaction during the news:
    WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON? DOZENS OF WEEKLY MURDERS AND THIS BONEHEAD THINKS THE NATIONAL GUARD SCARES PEOPLE. God help us

  • LAMan

    Is it true that Rahm is considering renaming the Windy City "Sarajevo"?

  • rjm2238

    Only a crazy man keeps responding in the same fashion to the same issue and expects a different result. After all these years of the same problem and the problem only gets worse what is it going to take for these idiotic liberals to try something different?
    If they really wanted to fix the problem, they don’t, they would try to identify the underlying reasons and then determine what could be done about changing those. How about taking a look at the root cause, economics/demographics. Here, in the democrat controlled inner city we have people who are flat broke and without hope. How is it they got this way? Who cares; point is why do they stay this way? Part of the reason for that is that the democrats have told them and keep mon telling them it is not their own fault, that there is nothing they can do except rely on democrats for table scraps, that their position is hopeless. Small wonder many give up. When you are raised and steeped in this garbage what can you expect.
    Their position is not hopeless but with democrat policies in place it is in critical condition. The best way out of poverty is to get a good education but the democrats, being beholden to the teachers unions for the huge amounts of campaign cash, have sold these folks down the river. They are not offered the option of sending their kids to private schools as do the politicians. It is almost as if the rich democrat ruling class is afraid that maybe their kid will have to go to same school as yours. Horrible thought isn’t it? Well believe it or not it scares them. They know denying an education to a people is a good way to hold them down, this is not the first time the democrats have done this, remember.
    So now that these folks have been, to certain extent, denied a shot at a good education by the democrats let’s see what else they can do to them. How about making them live in this jungle and stripping them of the ability to even defend themselves? Well when asked that question it seems the democrat answer is a big Yes, you bet. No guns for these people, at least that portion of them who obey the law. We will make gun ownership illegal, regardless of what the Constitution and the Supreme Court say, thereby insuring that only those willing to break the law will have the means to defend themselves and their families while those who follow the law, well, who cares I guess would be their answer, because it is obvious they don’t. A blind man could see their stupid gun free policies have made the place one of the most dangerous cities on Earth, including active war zones, yet they refuse to change or even discuss it!
    It is time for the good citizens of Chi-town to take matters into their own hands and fend for themselves for once. Get rid of the democrat machine which keeps you down for money and power and vote. Get them out, get yourself a job, get your kids school choice and get a gun to insure that those kids can survive school and grow into adulthood. You are going to have to change the way you vote or go around being the one who has demonstrated over and over again that you are simply crazy.
    Rich in New Mexico.

  • dw2558

    Dr. Swaroop is right. What they are doing is only a band aid. Until the people of Chicago decide that they have had enough of hot air politicians running the city, toss out these bums on their rears and demand a new slate of leaders to quit yapping and take decisive action, things won't change.

  • JmdJr1944

    All lives matter, but I might have a lot more compassion for those people IF they actually tried to better their lives. But, it seems to me that they would rather badmouth (or worse) the cops, continue selling their votes for free stuff, and keep putting up with all the crap that THEY have created / supported in one way or another.
    Sorry if this seems cruel, ~~ just my opinion.
    My advice~ grow a backbone and try to LEARN.
    If you ain't part of the solution, well~ YOU ARE the problem.
    My ONLY sorrow is for the very young, who are truly innocent~

  • jcam

    I'm sure the glorification of thug-life in gangsta rapp is helping the situation.

  • JWales

    If termites are eating up the wood frame of your house you don't just meekly keep repairing the damage as it continually occurs...you lay waste to the vermin and then repair any damage. Takes balls to fight violent street thugs.

  • jcam

    Yet they keep voting for Democrats and hindering the police. Amazing!

  • rwisrael

    Fire all the cops. Hire more medics. Ameliorate the unacceptable.

  • triggerfish

    When I went to boot camp in 1966 we were taught first aid and how to apply dressings. That was while we were in a war in Viet Nam. It only makes sense for the residents of Chicago to learn first aid because of the carnage taking place there.

  • Fred762

    Note.....learn to SHOOT BACK

  • DaveL

    Witnesses to violence? Since when are there ever any witnesses in Chicago? I thought nobody ever saw anything.

  • Aerobic1

    Self eradication of disturbed violents is good.

  • Aerobic1

    Two thing stop this violence:
    Armed good citizens
    Black families embracing work ethic manners education Christian principled snd a good loving father in home.

    If thr above does not happen no hope for Chicago.

  • SportsFan

    Can't make this stuff up...Citizens of this lunatic's City are being trained in triage and he's worried about the Federal government taking away Chicago's unlawful Sanctuary City status...

  • LibertarianX

    How about real solutions? Parents get married, stay married to raise their children. Quit paying people to not work so they need to support themselves. Prosecute gun crimes instead of pleading them down. And most of all, allow law abiding people to use their natural right of self defense to arm themselves, because first aid is not as good a defense as shooting back at the bad guy.

  • plebeian_secession

    perhaps the city could provide kevlar vests for residents in war zones.

  • VinceR

    How about learning prevention like weapon training?

  • MAR100Z

    Teaching emergency first aid is fine but, no one is addressing the real community problems. Where are the police, government officials and those responsible for law and order in the community? Guarantee if these killings were happening in white neighborhoods their would be a police officer on every street corner. .

  • Doc3

    There should spend time at the shooting range.

  • Heckler Koch

    There is a national "Stop The Bleed" campaign. Not unique to Chicago. The very premise of the article suggests that instead of dealing with the violence, Chicago is instead dealing with the aftermath. This retracts from the very real benefit of the campaign, unfortunately. But, yes, Chicago is a crime-ridden, gun-free, liberal mecca that I never care to set foot in.

  • Jerome Barry

    8th grade Health, or maybe Science, was when I learned basic First Aid. I do remember to distinguish between spurting open arteries (BAD) and oozing open veins (bad). There was more First Aid in 9th grade. That was back in the 1970's. Are Chicago schools not teaching First Aid?

  • What_the

    I wonder how long before some enterprising defense contractor starts fitting Chicago gangs with flak jackets for a premium, which they can later report as stolen? Its not like these gangs don't have the cash to buy what they need.

  • redtail

    if you want to get to the root cause of the violence, that would be traumatic experiences producing 'high reactors'. if you want to get to solutions, it would be nurturing of children, (of course being fed is nurturing, but also more importantly it is being held).

  • Joe_E_in_the_IE

    Every day
    Is a beautiful day
    In the Land of Rahmville,
    USA!

  • LAMan

    I strongly recommend to anybody stuck in Chicagostan to learn and practice IMT (Individual Movement Techniques). 3-5 second rush, high crawl, low crawl, use of cover, etc.

  • Churyl Minne

    Coming soon to Chicagoland -- DETROIT! Enjoy the benefits of electing Democrats that care little about the city they were elected to serve.
    Chicago will be the next major US city to fall apart like Detroit has.

  • evoval

    The outcome of 85 years of democrat control. No sympathy for these idiots!

  • haode

    as long as there is a chicago mayor that laughs at gang violence, or blames the weatherman, parents of school aged children must expect the kid will be shot.

  • someguy

    good for these folks, stepping up when no one else will.

  • purple1960

    JUST SEND IN THE COPS AND MAKE ARRESTS....

  • Julio Pezuka

    Probably better learn to live without federal funding, sanctuary city.

  • Sam Green

    “I feel like this course is a Band-Aid" Even a simple band aid can help or buy one time, bigger bandages or more training can buy one even more time.

    With that said, Not all states have good Samaritan laws on the books. I know where I live in Florida, these laws protect the layman like myself as well as trained first responders. Although the Army taught me good basic aid skills.

    As a result of the Sunshine state having loose Samaritan laws, my vehicle has a rolling 1st aid kit with everything from Narcan to smelling salts to clotting agents, even some advanced 1st aid products that can start a heart. (or in a pinch I could wire my defib to jump start a car, just kidding. )

    I have however used more fire extinguishers than band aids in my travels. You'd be surprised that almost no cars have a small fire extinguisher in the trunk. A small fire extinguisher can stop a wiring short fire from a total loss of a vehicle.

  • haode

    for christmas or birthdays, chicagoland parents of school age kids should buy bullet resistant vests and backpacks.

    seriously.

    these protective devices could be colorful. could have paid advertising to lower the cost.

    if the item saved one life of the hundreds encouraged/allowed/excused/laughed at by the chicago mayor, the program may be worth it.

    better upfront *before* buy those vests and backpacks than the *after* "gofundme" pleas to pay the hospital bills or burial expenses after the mayor's thugs score.

  • kakello34

    This summer is the real shooting season for the Chincongo Brothers! Just wait.

  • kakello34

    The entire rust belt was nearly a clean sweep for Trump, except Illinois; and that was due entirely to Chicago voters. Chicago, Cali, and NY will NOT dictate how this country is headed...period.

  • alliekat9090

    Hey we are down here shootin' each other in record numbers! Open more critical care centers. That will solve the problem.

  • Honest John

    Seriously, just being objective, it looks like the Obama "community organizer" legacy has served Chicago and our nation VERY POORLY. All violent acts seem to have an "affirmative action excuse" to deflect attention from the real problems, and "fixes" - well at least ways to reduce them.

  • chuck708

    Chicago is a Democrat Problem gone wrong.

    Why don't they send the ACLU to patrol the streets. Since the ACLU is one of the problems in Chicago and across the country.

  • pangea_47

    GeeeeeeZ I applaud the spirit of these people and it is a good idea for everyone to know some basic first aid BUT NOTHING like this should be necessary. It is awful that situation in Chicago is so BAD that this is a GOOD idea.

  • antiliberalcryptonite

    Learn first aid??? They need to learn how to put these criminals down with extreme prejudice! A good spankdown with lead will curb their appetite for being criminals.

  • Fleendar the magnificent

    And to think that Chicago is called a "sanctuary" city. Nothing safe or sanctuary-like about it at all.

  • EEDDGGY1776

    That'll fix the problem.

  • jimitrump

    THE MILITARY COULD SEND THEIR DOCTORS TO GET WAR EXPERIENCE

  • billie ray jim-bob

    Isn't this like closing the barn door after the horse is out

  • JJTX

    Nonsense. You arent an EMT.

    Buy a gun, learn to shoot and kill your attacker.