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Cradle to Grave

Trauma department's program shows urban teens there is more to life than gangs, guns, violence and death.

Not Just a Statistic 

Just outside the trauma bay, Charles stopped to tell the group a little about what Lamont was like.

He began respectfully saying, "Jennie [Lamont's grandmother] raised the boy, after she raised her own children. She didn't mind because it was love. Lamont was a big, fat, happy baby, according to Jennie, and as he grew up he was always singing and dancing. He used to stand up on the stoop and hold court for the neighborhood kids. They called him the 'Prince of 27th Street.'"

Charles added, "Jennie could always see Lamont in those days just by looking out the front window. She could protect him then."

Unfortunately, Lamont's grandmother couldn't save him from the aftermath of the dice game.

A student asked if Lamont's killer was ever found. Charles told them the truth: not until a year later - after he'd shot someone else. Lamont's killer was sent to prison.

Life-Like Simulation

With a body bag lying on the empty gurney inside the Temple trauma bay, Charles selected a student to play Lamont's part in a recreation of his treatment.

The student followed the instructor's directions and seemed to have no problem with the assignment.

Charles began by describing Lamont's treatment from his arrival: the removal of his clothes, the trauma team arriving and assessing the victim. Lamont had no pulse or blood pressure, Charles said. He was bleeding out as quickly as fluids were being replaced.

Charles then placed red dots on the student's body exactly where Lamont's bullet holes had been.

He pointed out two holes on the student's fingers, explaining this was Lamont's futile attempt to defend himself from more shots.

Throughout the 45-minute simulation of Lamont's trauma care, from the explanation of cross-clamping the aorta to performing a clamshell thoracotomy to perform open heart massage, at no time did the instructor sensationalize what he explained. The class was clearly engaged in the demonstration.

Straight Talk

As the students left the trauma bay, Charles handed each of them a toe tag, used as identification for bodies before transport to the morgue. Once settled in a classroom, the instructor asked the group to each write down on the tag who they would give their life for. Each person present, including the teachers and the observer, had to share their responses.

For the remainder of the program, Charles reinforced the purpose of the program using straight talk. He told them each one of them had to decide "which side of this war you are on; you can't be on the sidelines." He gave them an example to think about: If they saw a Temple medical student from Nebraska being robbed or shot, would they come to his aid and report the situation or would they turn away - not wanting to be a "snitch."

Charles ended the program with a quote taken from an August 2007 Washington Post article, written by Army Reserve Major John Pryor, MD. In the article, the former trauma chief at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania compared the wars of the streets of West Philadelphia to the war in Iraq. Pryor served two tours of duty in Iraq before he was killed there on Christmas 2008.

"In Iraq, soldiers die for freedom, for honor, for their country and for their buddies. Here in Philadelphia, they die without honor, without purpose, for no country, for no one," wrote Pryor.

The Temple team who developed "From Cradle to Grave" is realistic.

Rosenberg and the other healthcare professionals know it's going to take much more effort by a lot more people to win the war on violence and death, among teens in Philadelphia.

However, they have seen progress. The outcome they are most proud of is that of the 2,500 teens who have gone through the program, only one has returned as a trauma victim.

Kay Bensing is senior staff nurse consultant at ADVANCE.

Cradle to Grave

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