Black Voices

Why This Hospital Turned An 18-Year-Old Away After He Was Shot

The same day the University of Chicago released a report claiming its possible hosting of the Barack Obama Presidential Library would be a multi-million dollar boon, activists kicked off a week of protests criticizing the school's hospital for only offering trauma care for individuals 16 years of age or younger.

That's because the University of Chicago Medical Center closed its adult trauma center in 1988. And though it moved into a new $700 million building last year, officials say the hospital lacks financial and other support to reopen a trauma center that can treat patients 17 and up.

Activists with the Trauma Care Coalition, an umbrella group including residents from a number of South Side organizations pushing for an adult trauma center, staged a sit-in protest on Monday at the construction site of a parking garage for the new hospital building.

The same day, two members of the Trauma Care Coalition spoke to HuffPost Live for a conversation hosted by Marc Lamont Hill on the university's controversial push for the Obama library. Also joining the discussion were Dr. Marie Crandall, an associate professor of surgery at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine, and Sheila Rush, a Chicago woman who lost her son to gun violence.

Rush is the mother of Damian Turner, who died of a gunshot wound sustained in a drive-by shooting in 2010. Though the 18-year-old was shot just blocks away from the University of Chicago Medical Center, he was taken eight miles away by ambulance to Northwestern Memorial Hospital, where he died of his injuries, because there are no adult trauma centers on the city's South Side.

(Watch the full HuffPost Live segment below.)

Protesters say Turner would be alive today if the U of C treated older gunshot victims. Besides Northwestern Memorial, the next nearest adult trauma center is located over 10 miles away at Advocate Christ Medical Center in suburban Oak Lawn.

"To travel from two blocks from the hospital to Northwestern Hospital, I think that's ridiculous," Rush told HuffPost Live. "I can talk about it now better than I could four ears ago but I don't want any other mother in Chicago to go through what I went through.... I think this is not a money issue because believe me, they have the money. They are a great hospital like I said, I don't put that past them. At the same time, how much does it take and how many people have to lose their lives for someone who has all the power in their hands to make a change?"

Rush said she is currently writing a letter to Obama on the matter.

In response to the protests, the university issued a statement to the Hyde Park Herald calling an adult trauma center "a massive undertaking, requiring significant resources and support, as well as a complex decision-making process involving the city and state."

The university added that such a center would "compromise" its current offerings, including the only burn unit on the city's South Side, its intensive care neonatal unit and the Level 1 trauma care center for children.