UofL trauma surgeon fears 2020 could be one of Louisville’s most violent years

A disturbing trend in UofL’s data is that violence between people who have some kind of relationship with each other has nearly doubled.
Published: Jul. 29, 2020 at 12:32 AM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Healthcare workers are now fighting a global pandemic on top of a local crisis, a combination that UofL Hospital workers are calling “corona-violence.”

Between March and July of last year, UofL doctors treated 323 people for gunshot and stab wounds. This year, there have been close to 500 in that same three month period.

At least 20 people have been shot in Louisville in the past three days.

”The numbers are eye-opening, but the amount of grief and devastation that are associated with those numbers is heartbreaking,” trauma surgeon Dr. Keith Miller told WAVE 3 News.

Miller said 2020 is the on track to be the most violent year he’s seen at UofL since he joined in 2012.

”As we classically define mass casualty situations across the country to about four or five people injured in a single shooting, I mean, it begins to feel very much like that almost on a nightly basis in the hospital,” Miller said.

Going from one or two victims of violence in a day to three or four is hard for the staff to process.

”You can’t understate the impact,” Miller said. “I mean, everyone every one of these injuries has a story that goes with it and a family that you ultimately have to talk to and tell them how things are progressing or if they are progressing and that’s very difficult.”

While the nearly 80 homicides in seven months this year are enough to shake anyone, Miller points out there’s an even larger number of people who now have to face life with significant disabilities and PTSD.

”The day it happens is the day that individual’s life and that individual’s family’s lives change forever,” Miller said. “Then they never walk again, they may never function cognitively the same way that they did before their injury. So, every one of those injuries, has a recovery period that can last from four to six weeks and I’m talking about the injuries themselves, I’m not talking about the post-traumatic stress that they’ll deal with for probably the rest of their life.”

Another disturbing trend in UofL’s data is that violence between people who have some kind of relationship with each other has nearly doubled. In 2019, 221 gunshot or stab wound patients knew their attacker. That equals 68% percent of those treated.

In 2020, 420 violent crime patients admitted to knowing who hurt them, equaling 86% of those treated for crime-related injuries.

In periods of economic downturn and civil unrest, Miller says these higher numbers don’t take him by surprise, but they should be a bigger wakeup call in a city already struggling with gun violence.

”This isn’t an East End problem or West End problem, this is a Louisville problem,” Miller said. “The least we can ask is that all of us spend some time thinking about it.”

Miller says another thing in the back of everyone’s mind while trying to treat victims of violence is how thin the stock of personal protective equipment already is with the pandemic.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office says it’s one of the largest federal takedowns of its type in recent Louisville history.

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