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Children’s of Alabama seeing record number of gunshot victims

Published: Jun. 7, 2022 at 9:58 PM CDT|Updated: Jun. 15, 2022 at 4:12 PM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - Children’s of Alabama is on track to see a record number of gunshot victims in 2022. An 18-year-old was shot and killed earlier this week in the county.

In 2020, the children’s hospital treated 66 kids for gun shot wounds. In 2021, it jumped to 82. Through May of 2022, they’ve seen 24 kids.

Doctors tell WBRC they treat two to three kids a week on average with a firearm injury.

“We are seeing way more than we have before and its not slowing down either,” UAB Pediatric Emergency Medicine Fellow Dr. Eric Jorge said. “For every three patients we see at Children’s, two die in the field before they even make it to the hospital. We are only half way through the year, but we are already on track to setting new records unfortunately.”

Jorge said intentional injuries make up about 50% of the cases they see. That’s where someone intentionally fired a gun, even if the child was accidentally hit by the bullet.

“Intentional injuries make up the slight majority,” he said. “But in terms of what we see every week, both intentional and unintentional injuries.”

Unintentional injuries are accidental shootings, like if a child gets a hold of a firearm and accidentally pulls the trigger, injuring themselves.

But, Jorge said intentional or unintentional, kids can still not make it.

“I’ve done research with our local data and I know that one out of every three children will die,” he said. “We just often don’t have the means to save the child, no matter how hard we try.”

But, for the kids that make it, he said three out of four will have lifelong side effects.

“The mental side effects of these firearm injuries are huge,” Jorge said. “Almost everyone deals with PTSD. Firearm injuries are just so physically devastating.”

Children’s of Alabama has treated 24 gunshot patients so far this year, with five happening just last month, but that number is down from last May, where they saw 10 victims.

A Children’s of Alabama spokesperson said the numbers they released represent every patient who has come to the Children’s of Alabama emergency department suffering from a gunshot wound regardless of the severity of the wound (or whether it resulted in death). In other words - from January 2021 through the end of May 2021, 37 patients arrived at Children’s emergency department suffering from gunshot wounds. From January 2022 through the end of May 2022, 24 patients arrived at Children’s emergency department suffering from gunshot wounds.

The numbers Dr. Jorge provided are based on research he has done related to gun violence around Jefferson County and Alabama. They are not the most up-to-date numbers. His research documents a dramatic upward trend in the number of gunshot victims over a 20-year span. Based on this historical data, he expects that general upward trend to continue.

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