Health & Spirit

Treating trauma in children after the physical wounds have healed: 'I want to start fresh'

Alice Yin, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Health & Fitness

E'Lonye Harris was 17 when three bullets tore through his body last November. He woke up from a coma with staples holding his belly closed and tubes sticking out of his collapsed lung.

Though he recovered enough to go home, the walk to Ombudsman Chicago South High School, around the corner from the shooting, proved too much. He dropped out a month later.

Harris, now 18, said the mental trauma proved much harder to heal than the physical wounds. He saw a psychiatrist at the University of Chicago Medical Center three times a week and was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, he said.

"It's crazy because I did want to finish school, but I just got to change because of what happened," he said. "I want to start fresh."

The university says it will be able to reach more victims like Harris with a $9.1 million donation to its Block Hassenfeld Casdin Collaborative for Family Resilience, which helps children and families recuperate from violence through counseling, child care, mentoring and other services. The gift means the program can now afford round-the-clock staffers to attend to children at the hospital.

The contribution comes amid a rash of gun violence in Chicago that has wounded at least 14 children aged 17 and younger so far this month, according to Chicago Tribune data. Dozens of other adolescents -- siblings, friends, neighbors -- were witnesses to shootings, at times narrowly escaping bullets themselves.


Last week, a 14-year-old girl was hit by gunfire that erupted at the same apartment building where a 17-year-old boy was shot the week before. Two other kids, an 8-year-old boy and 10-year-old girl, were wounded this month when a gunman fired shots during a baby shower in Chicago.

Harris ended up at the trauma center on Nov. 5 after Chicago police said he was found in critical condition with gunshot wounds to his left shoulder, chest and back around 1:10 p.m.

He said he had been shot while on his way to a convenience store and began sprinting the block and a half to his home. Blood gushed down his arm as he gripped his stomach, but he continued running because "I always make it home to my mom," he said.

Just as Harris reached for the doorknob, he collapsed.


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