It was an early Saturday evening when the radio alarm system went off, alerting Dr. Samaa Kemal, a pediatric emergency medicine fellow at Lurie Children’s Hospital, that an ambulance had called en route to the hospital.
“They had a teenager who had sustained a gunshot wound and was in critical condition,” she said. “Despite the heroic efforts of our team, we could not bring that child to life.”
This was not the first, and it will not be the last time she has to witness the loss of life to gun violence in Chicago, she said at a news conference Friday in the wake of Tuesday’s mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, and the May 14 mass shooting at a Buffalo, New York, grocery store.
“The number one cause of death for kids and teenagers in the U.S. is no longer driving, the number one cause of death for kids and teenagers is guns,” said U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, who organized the conference. “Can you imagine the people who wrote the Second Amendment of the Constitution thinking that would be possible? I can’t.”
The teenager who lost his life that night, Kemal said, was 16-year-old Seandell Holliday who was shot near The Bean in Millennium Park on May 14.
Indya Pinkard, a youth advocate from the South Side, said there is a mental health crisis in the country.
“Growing up in the South Side, it’s been many times that I’ve had this experience (of gun violence). Instead of curfews for the young people, it would be better to have after-school programming available later, until midnight,” she said, referring to Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s establishment of a 10 p.m. curfew for minors following Holliday’s death. “More opportunities for youth can really improve Chicago murder rates. … We shouldn’t have to be afraid to go outside of our communities, instead we need to have people mostly impacted from gun violence come out and their stories and be in the conversation on how to address this in the city of Chicago.”
Colleen Cicchetti, a psychologist at Lurie’s, said the hospital offers free mental health, psychology and psychiatrist services to people in Chicago who have grown up in trauma.
“Children today are suffering a trauma that can be treated to avoid gun violence, as well as to treat people who have been victims of gun violence,” she said. “People who are survivors of gun violence tend to suffer it more times in their lives.”
In their program, they also prepare parents, caregivers, coaches and other community leaders to raise new generations without passing on trauma and to do so in a nurturing and positive way.
“However, there is a shortage in these services,” she said. “We only have 30 social workers in our team and over 1,000 people on our waitlist.”