How do you prepare Navy doctors for a war zone? Send them to a Chicago trauma unit.
A new partnership with a Cook County hospital is allowing military medical personnel access to the trauma patients that it serves in Chicago, which is grappling with so much gun violence on its South and West sides that some people have taken to calling the city “Chiraq.”
“It’s important to get them this kind of training here, so they can see how to stop that bleeding and save that life,” Lt. Cmdr. Stan Hovell, a Navy nurse who worked in a rotation at the hospital, told the Chicago Tribune. “They pick up those skills and carry it back to the Navy.”
In a phone interview with The Post on Friday, Faran Bokhari, the head of Stroger Hospital’s trauma department, said the hospital’s unit is well-suited for the training not necessarily because of the level of violence in Chicago, but rather because of the volume of patients it receives, and the wide variety of cases that doctors treat.
“The guys are actually very good, the Navy personnel — they’re excellent,” Bokhari said. “And I think the reason that they are excellent is that they really want to do a good job.”
Navy medical teams already work at a North Chicago health care center, the AP reported, but Stroger has one of the busiest trauma units in the county and offers unique training opportunities for doctors — and the chance to keep their skills sharp.
“Some of them are very experienced,” Bokhari told the Chicago Tribune. “They’re not green medical students out of la-la land. They’ve seen the blood and guts.”
During the July 4 weekend, for example, Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Dwight Koontz worked on a man who was being treated for multiple gunshot wounds. “He had 15 holes in him,” Koontz told the AP. “It took about two hours for us to get him stable enough to get him to surgery.”
The man lived. More than 80 people were shot in Chicago over the long holiday weekend, and 14 of those shootings were fatal. Through Sept. 5, there have been 1,305 shooting victims in the city, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Jared Bernard, a Navy trauma surgeon, said he recalled a patient who suffered a transpelvic gunshot wound — which went from the man’s right side of his pelvis to his left — that was similar to the type of injury one might see overseas. (That man also lived.) At the North Chicago hospital, Bernard doesn’t preform trauma procedures; he treats hernias and removes gallbladders — those types of procedures, but he’s also been deployed twice to Afghanistan.
“We need to be on top of our game,” Bernard said. “Because it’s a busy world out there now, and our corpsman need to be ready for whenever we call on them.”
Here’s a (somewhat graphic) 2012 video that shows what Stroger’s trauma team typically deals with. (If the sight of blood makes you squeamish, just skip this part.)
Navy personnel also train in Los Angeles, where gang violence has left doctors treating a steady stream of stabbing and shooting victims. “It’s a shame that Los Angeles has so much violence,” surgeon John Newman told the Los Angeles Times in 2003, “but from a training standpoint — fantastic.”
[This post has been updated.]