MAYWOOD, Ill. – One year ago this week, Patrick Young of Bellwood found himself face down on a Maywood street, bleeding heavily from a bullet wound.
"I saw them when I was closing up but I didn't pay them any mind," said Young, 26, who was walking home around 9 p.m., from his mother's business where he worked. "They came out the bushes and one of them said, 'Give me all your money!' I said, 'Man, I just got paid. I can't believe you're even on that.' And he shot me."
Since he had turned to run away, the bullet had struck Young in the back and lodged behind one of his ribs, where it remains to this day. A police officer found Young and he was transported to Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood, where he underwent surgery. At that point, street justice demanded immediate retribution against the men who Young thought were friends but who he now believes meant to kill him that night.
That retribution just might have taken place, however, if not for an innovative emergency department collaboration between Loyola and Maywood CeaseFire, a violence-prevention group that uses street-savvy people to mediate disputes and quell conflicts between high-risk youths and their families and friends.
"Lying in a bed in a hospital is a captive moment and it's also a reflective moment for the victim as well as their family," said Jan Mitchell Bolling, program manager for Maywood CeaseFire. "With the right interventions of alternatives, people are prone to change."
The collaboration between Loyola and CeaseFire began in May 2009, not long before Young was shot. Interventions begin soon after victims of violence arrive at the hospital for treatment. Victims and their families are screened by Loyola trauma staff, chaplains and social workers for possible referral to the CeaseFire Hospital Response team, who are specially trained to effectively intervene when emotions are running at their highest.
Hajirah Saeed, a third-year student at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine, led the effort to bring CeaseFire to Loyola as part of an Albert Schweitzer Fellowship, a national honor that helps graduate students dedicate their time and services to helping others
"I had to come up with a service project that could be implemented in the community," Saeed said. "Maywood has a lot of issues that can be dealt with through a service project like this and I thought violence prevention would be a good avenue to pursue."
Each year, nearly 500 victims of violence are treated in Loyola’s Emergency Department. Most of the victims are African American males between the ages 16 to 35 who are involved in shootings, stabbing and beatings. Since the program's inception at Loyola, more than 55 victims of violence have been referred to the CeaseFire Hospital Response team.
"Our partnership with CeaseFire is the right thing to do," said Dr. Thomas Esposito, chief of the division of trauma, surgical critical care and burns in the Department Surgery at Stritch. "The solution to street violence needs to be multi-faceted, multidisciplinary and community-based. Just patching up wounds and pronouncing victims dead just isn’t enough anymore."
Responders are chosen for their strong ties in the Maywood community and the surrounding area and share a passion for preventing violence. Some are former gang members or are people who have been directly affected by violence. All undergo intensive training that prepares them to handle caseloads that could include a dozen or more people.
In Young's case, Loyola trauma staff told him there was a young man, Keenan Ellis, who worked with CeaseFire and who wanted to talk to him.
"The first thing he did when he came out of his daze from medication was he asked me for a hug," said Ellis, 37, a resident of Bellwood. "He said, 'Can I have a hug?' So I gave him a hug, and from that moment on we’ve established a rapport."
That rapport has led Young to concentrating on turning his life around and resisting friends' insistence that he seek revenge for the shooting.
"I've got my diploma, I'm working and I have no kids. I know right from wrong," Young said. "I'm just trying to stay focused and CeaseFire is helping me to do that by Keenan just keeping in touch. Just pray for me. I'm alright."
Loyola and CeaseFire Maywood will celebrate CeaseFire Day from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Wednesday, June 9, at Loyola University Medical Center, 2160 S. First Ave., Maywood. The event, which is being held in conjunction with CeaseFire Week, will include speakers, handouts, T-shirts and posters.