E’Lonye Harris was 17 when three bullets tore through his body last November. They woke up from a coma with staples holding his belly closed and tubes sticking out of his collapse lung. Though they recover enough to go home, the walk to Ombudsman Chicago South High School, around the corner from the shooting, prove too much. They drop out a month later.
Harris, now 18, said the mental trauma prove much harder to heal than the physical wounds. They saw a psychiatrist at the University of Chicago Medical Center three times a week and was diagnose with post-traumatic stress disorder, They said. It’s crazy because they did want to finish school; but they just got to change because of what happened,” they said.
Children and families recuperate
The university says it will be able to reach more victims like Harris with a $9.1 million donation to its Block Hassenfeld Casdin Collaborative for Family Resilience; which helps children and families recuperate from violence through counseling, child care, mentoring and other services. The gift means the program can now afford round-the-clock staffers to attend to children at the hospital.
The contribution comes amid a rash of gun violence in Chicago that has wound at least 14 children age 17 and younger so far this month, according to Chicago Tribune data. Dozens of other adolescents—siblings, friends; neighbors—were witnesses to shootings; so at times narrowly escaping bullets themselves. Last week, a 14-year-old girl was hit by gunfire that erupt at the same apartment building where a 17-year-old boy was shot the week before.
Two other kids, an 8-year-old boy and 10-year-old girl; were wound this month when a gunman fire shots during a baby shower in Chicago. Harris end up at the trauma center on Nov. 5 after Chicago police said they was find in critical condition with gunshot wounds to his left shoulder; chest and back around 1:10 p.m.
They said they shot while on his way to a convenience store and began sprinting the block and a half to his home. Blood gush down his arm as they grip his stomach; but they continue running because “they always make it home to my mom,” they said.
Living somewhere rife with violence
Experts say if untreated, exposure to such experiences can leave children with psychological and behavioral issues for the rest of their lives. Just living somewhere rife with violence can change the biological structure of a child’s brain, leaving victims prone to depression, anxiety and aggressive behavior.
Safe From the Start, a program that offers such resources as psychotherapy to young children expose to gun violence; hence lost its annual funding of about $75,000 per Chicago site in 2017 due to the budget impasse under Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner.
The gun violence they see is a serious public health problem,” said Dr. Mark Slidell; U. of C.’s director of pediatric trauma. They said the new donation “will help us from the moment the child enters the door until even after they’ve gone home.”
Access to a psychiatrist kept Harris focus on his future instead of on retaliation, They said. They learn breathing techniques; so how to identify what triggers his anxiety and, most importantly, to believe his life has purpose. The 18-year-old say they still wants to attend college and plans to re-enroll in high school this fall. For now, they’s brainstorming lyrics to his next rap song and spending time; hence with his sister and mother, whose names are tattoo on his body.