Cook County’s Trauma Center Marks 50th Anniversary

WBBM’s Nancy Harty

trauma Cook Countys Trauma Center Marks 50th Anniversary
WBBM 780/105.9FM

(CBS) —  Nearly two years ago, a gunman seriously shot a policeman in the head and shoulders. The story of the team who helped him survive still brings Cmdr. Edward Kulbida to tears.

“From the minute I was wheeled in to the day I walked out, I was treated with the utmost professionalism by every employee I encountered,” he says.

Stroger is more than an emergency room, it is a Level One Trauma Center.  And in a city plagued by gun violence, it’s your best bet at survival.

“If you ever going to get hurt, if you’re ever going to get shot, you are going to want to go to Stroger,” Kulbida said.

At Cook County Hospital, the concept was developed here 50 years ago: Treat traumatically injured patients immediately with a team of specialists — doctors, nurses, surgeons — who remain their medical team through recovery.

“It was a new way of thinking,” Dr. Andrew Dennis says.

Staff could tend to patients within 30 seconds, and operate on punctured organs in less than five minutes. Survival rates spiked, and the hospital became a global standard.

The former chairman of the unit from 1982 to 2002, Dr. John Barrett, says the trauma center began in a dining room on the third floor of the old Cook County Hospital.

This country’s first trauma unit was inspired by European hospitals, where staffers worked in coordination on patients. Doctors used life-saving techniques learned during the Vietnam War at Cook County and now it’s returning the favor.

Dr. Jay Shannon, CEO of the county’s health and hospitals system, says Cook is one of only two hospitals in the U.S. that the Department of Defense uses to train military personnel on how to treat trauma.

Several former patients came to a press conference at Stroger Hospital Friday. They included Wayne Messmer.

The broadcaster and national anthem singer was brought there after he was shot in the neck in 1994 and calls the fact that they could restore his voice “a miracle.”

Kamilah Givens was shot 10 times and rushed to the trauma center. The continued care of her team beyond discharge is what makes Stroger a model others continue to follow.

“I think about them every day … it’s like my family now,” Givens says.

Five thousand patients came through the trauma unit last year, officials said. Two-thirds of the patients have blunt-trauma injuries. The remaining one-third is for shootings and stabbings.

Patients are getting younger.  Current trauma unit Chairman Dr. Faran Bokhari says the number of gun victims under age 17 has doubled in the last five years.

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