Nightly News   |  August 19, 2013

‘No rules anymore’: ER docs describe Chicago’s flood of violence

At a hospital in the Chicago suburb of Oak Lawn, gun violence is having a big impact. Last year alone, doctors treated 1,000 gunshot and stabbing victims. It’s indicative of the changing nature of violence in the city, described by one of the hospital staff as “unforgettable.”  NBC’s John Yang reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> city of chicago is coming off yet another awful weekend under deadly fire. six people were killed, and 28 others, including a 7-year-old boy, were injured in gunfire across the city. at last count, there have been 249 murders in chicago so far this year, down from last year, but still a serious problem. and it's being felt beyond the city limits . tonight, we take our cameras to the front lines, a hospital e.r. where the doctors and other caregivers are making a difference between life and death for some of the victims of violence. nbc's john yang has our report.

>> 1205 . how do you copy?

>> 38-year-old male, stabbing.

>> room one.

>> reporter: saturday night at advocate christ medical center 's e.r. in suburban oak lawn , seven trauma cases in two hours. most involve violence on chicago's south side . two shootings, a stabbing and an assault.

>> put the tourniquet on him. just relax.

>> reporter: dr. james doherty is head of the trauma department on hour 13 of a 24-hour shift. he is worried about a teenager who was shot in the head.

>> the bullet fragment is still in there?

>> the bullet fragment is gone. i don't see the bullet fragment at all. i think what happened is it came in and hit, cracked the skull and then probably bounced out.

>> reporter: the number of doas here has quadrupled in three years, but if they reach the doors alive, the survival rate is 97%.

>> got a lot of injuries.

>> when you do something a lot, you get good at it.

>> reporter: but it's getting harder.

>> he is still pouring stuff out of there.

>> it's amazing. throw the kitchen sink at him and see what happens.

>> reporter: trauma surgeon ellen olney is caring for 45 patients, including one from neighboring indiana, with 28 bullet wounds.

>> we definitely see more people covered in bullets. i mean, 28? i would have to say that's as close to the highest i have seen, but i think 32 was the highest that i saw. and it's really chance to what it hits or what it doesn't hit.

>> reporter: last year, the staff saw nearly 1100 gunshot and stabbing victims.

>> strong teamwork and we will get through it, okay? have a good night, guys.

>> reporter: every night, they witness the changing nature of the violence.

>> there's no rules anymore it seems like, with the pattern of violence. it's just random 5-year-olds getting shot. that really hits you hard.

>> reporter: for some on the staff, it's been life changing.

>> it's unforgettable, what i have seen in this e.r.

>> reporter: medical technician lawana hudson grew up on chicago's south side and raised two sons there.

>> when i wake up in the morning, i just thank god i have waken up and nothing has happened to me or my loved ones.

>> reporter: cherishing life as they save