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Program Fights Gun Violence Bravado With 'Story Of Suffering'

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In 2004, 16-year-old Lamont Adams was shot more than a dozen times near his home in North Philadelphia. He was taken to Philadelphia's Temple University Hospital, where trauma unit head Dr. Amy Goldberg fought to save his life. Goldberg lost that battle and Adams died shortly after arriving at the hospital, but after treating so many gun injuries and watching so many victims die, Goldberg decided to make a change.

Together with Scott Charles, she created Cradle to Grave, a violence prevention program that brings small groups of at-risk youth to the hospital to show them what getting shot is really like.

The two-hour program starts with Charles, the program's director and trauma outreach coordinator, telling participants Adams' story. After that, Goldberg describes the surgeries she performed to try to save her patient.

Goldberg and Charles join Fresh Air's Terry Gross to discuss how shooting victims sometimes reinforce the idea that getting shot is no big deal. Recent shooting victim Greg Cunningham also tells Gross about his experience and how it has changed his perspective on violence.


Interview Highlights

On what the program hopes to accomplish by bringing kids into the hospital

Goldberg: "I think particularly what we want to do is to educate these young kids that gunshot wounds and injuries can kill. I think what they see on TV, [in] videos, [what] they hear [in] hip hop and music is that you get shot and you're fine. And that's not the case at all. ... These are lethal injuries and you can walk away paralyzed with severe injuries, or not walk away at all."

On the harmful effects of shooting survivors' bravado

Charles: "What will oftentimes happen is that the person who has been shot wants to make the best out of this terrible situation, and that's how this mythology continues. They'll be shot and the word is that they're now 'soldiers' as a function of being shot. They go back out and say it wasn't really that big of a deal being shot. They took it like a soldier.

"... Their concern, I believe, is the fear of being re-injured or re-victimized. They become a target. You don't want to be seen as soft.

"... The problem is, for those who have not been shot yet, they have no idea how bad this experience is. And the reality ... for more than 80 percent of people who get shot in Philadelphia and who will survive, it's really a story of suffering. So what we wanted to do with the Cradle to Grave Program is to reveal the truth about that experience. It's not like they see on television; it's not like the word they're getting on the street."

On Charles' role as an advocate for gun violence victims

Charles: "The very first thing I want to do is to let them know that there's somebody there serving as an advocate for them and that they can tell me anything, ask me anything. It's really to have a conversation with them at every turn, to let them know that we don't have to continue this cycle of violence, that it can end here. ... When the two of us can have a conversation we're going to spend a lot of time talking about what retaliation ultimately means, how this will carry on much further down the line."

On getting kids to think about the lasting effects of gun violence

Charles: "I say to the young people who come through the program, 'You have an easy job when you die. You only have to die one time, but the people that you leave behind die a little bit each and every day for the rest of their lives.' ... I want kids to understand that this isn't just about them, this is about everybody they leave behind."

On the experience of being shot

Cunningham: "I would've lost credibility in my hood had I said who shot me, so that was one of the reasons why I didn't say nothing. The other reason is that I don't believe that he deserves to be [in prison], so I didn't tell the police what happened.

" ... I'm afraid for the younger generation in my area, or just period. I'm just afraid for the younger generation period, because they're lost, they have no clue."

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