A gunshot to the arm should not be fatal, but Amanda McMacken, a registered nurse in Temple University Hospital’s Emergency Department, said she sees that risk of fatality over minor bullet wounds often.
“We have teenagers a few miles away from a trauma center who are dying because people don’t know how to stop the bleeding,” she said.
Now, for a few hours every other week since December, McMacken—and several other nurses from TUH—volunteer their time to teach community members how to save lives.
Fighting Chance was developed by Scott Charles, the Trauma Outreach coordinator at TUH, and Tim Bryan, the assistant director of Emergency Medical Services at Temple. Bryan said the community had been asking for a program like Fighting Chance for years, but it took the “right people” to finally bring it all together.
“This makes us feel not helpless,” said Midge Smith, 67, who volunteers every day at the 12th and Cambria Recreation Center. “They taught us things we didn’t know much about for helping a person: how to use a tourniquet, that you got to plug up a bullet wound and the most important thing is to talk to them, keep them calm.”
The program is entirely centered around empowering people, Bryan said.
“The most traumatic thing for the person who’s not hurt is standing next to the person who was, and not knowing what to do,” he said.
“It’s heartbreaking. So many people have lost someone, and there are so many stories,” added McMacken, who volunteers for the Fighting Chance program. “And it’s not just one one person, they’ve lost multiple people—a brother or sister or nephew or their kid. Sometimes people forget the family is still involved, and the pain doesn’t go away. That’s why they’re there: to save their last child.”
The concepts of Fighting Chance were introduced at a monthly community meeting with the Philadelphia Police’s 25th District in late summer of 2015, said Ricardo Rose, a member of the Advisory Board at the 12th and Cambria Recreation Center.
“They wanted to try the initiative with a community that was already progressive,” Rose said. “Two-and-a-half years ago, this neighborhood was dominated by drug dealers and gangs. There were shootings all the time.”
Dara Del Collo, a registered nurse in the TUH Emergency Room, volunteered her time to help teach the program and said almost everybody who attended the program had known or seen somebody get shot.
“Not knowing what to do, they felt hopeless or helpless,” Del Collo said. “The first time we did a reenactment, and we told them to do what they normally do after a shooting, I was taken aback by the chaos.”
Through a strong partnership with the 25th District and community involvement, Rose said the community was able to “turn it all around.” It was this relationship with the police that connected Rose’s community with TUH to develop the program, he added.
“This is not Temple telling the community that they need this, this is the result of the community asking for years,” said Bryan, who constructed the curriculum of the program based off the U.S. Military’s course “Tactical Combat Casualty Care.” “Large events like Sandy Hook or the Boston Marathon are rare, but there’s a shooting here every day.”
Bryan said the program has taught more than 80 people, and many attend the program more than once. At the end of the two-hour sessions, participants receive a certificate from Temple showing they have undergone trauma response training, Rose added.
“When we first started, there were boys outside playing ball on the court and Mike Abdullah, the vice president of the Advisory Board, he called them in,” Smith said. “And you know, at first they were slow and sluggish because they didn’t want to be there, but at the end [of the program] they asked to come back, and they brought their friends.”
The training also helped when a man outside the recreation center collapsed from low blood sugar. Smith, along with others who had received training from the program, lifted the man and placed him safely in his daughter’s vehicle. By the time police arrived, they had “already sent him on his way” to the hospital, where he was treated and they later learned the man made it through the incident unscathed.
Bryan said the biggest challenge for the program now is the complete lack of resources.
“It’s 100 percent voluntary with no resources,” he said.
While the program has only come to the Glenwood community, Bryan, Charles and Rose all said they hope the program extends throughout Philadelphia.
“What they teach is beyond a shooting,” Rose said. “This applies to helping anyone who is injured. [The community’s] participation and awareness has prepared them for catastrophic situations, but it also gives them a sort of comfort.”
Julie Christie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ChristieJules