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Local Medics Train Chicago Residents To Help Shooting Victims


All right, so we're going to hear now about a young woman whose name is Journey Jamison. A few weeks after she turned 15, she saved a man's life. It was a hot Sunday afternoon in Chicago when a stranger burst through her back door bleeding from his neck.

JOURNEY JAMISON: And he's like, I've been shot. Can you help me? That's exactly what he said. And instantly in that moment it was like, yes, yes.

GREENE: More than 3,000 people in Chicago have been shot this year. And a local group, UMedics, is teaching people how to act fast. From member station WBEZ in Chicago, Shannon Heffernan reports.

SHANNON HEFFERNAN, BYLINE: This story is about Journey Jamison's yes - about why she felt like she could say it. And that starts with a woman named Martine Caverl. Someone she knew was shot in 2010 and died before he could get to the hospital. That led her to think about access to health care. Caverl's a nurse, and she and a friend co-founded Ujimaa Medics - UMedics for short.

MARTINE CAVERL: We wanted to say to people there's actually - there's a lot of things that we can do. This is the one thing we can do.

HEFFERNAN: They did their first public training in 2014. So far, UMedics has trained more than 250 people. Both Journey Jamison and her mom, Kenisha, took that training and then became trainers. But Journey didn't expect to have to use it herself. That is until Deante Starks burst into her house.

DAENTE STARKS: I didn't know instantly I was shot. I thought like some kids threw a rock or something through the window or something. Hit you with all their might across your face.

HEFFERNAN: That Sunday he was in a car when someone walked up and started shooting. He gets out and runs across the street through an alley and through Journey's back door.

STARKS: Like, her first reaction, she was scared.

J. JOURNEY: I don't know if he's the shooter or not.

STARKS: And I'm like, no. Like, I'm the one that got shot.

J. JOURNEY: I've been shot. Can you help me? And instantly in that moment it was like, yes. I can't even put into words how empowering it was.

STARKS: She was like, you're going to have to lay down. Whatever you say do, is what I'm going to do.

HEFFERNAN: Jamison calls 911. The workshop actually trains you in what to say to help the ambulance get there fastest, like letting them know the scene is safe. And while she's waiting, she's treating the wound just like she learned.

While legal experts say the group could potentially be held liable if someone sued them, the group says as long as someone is able, they are careful to ask for consent all along the way.

The bullet had gone through Starks' neck and up through his jaw. And as Jamison is pushing down on the wound, strangers who heard about the shooting are barging in and out of her house. Then her mom, Kenisha, gets home and immediately leaps into action doing something she learned in the training - handling the crowd.

KENISHA JAMISON: That's one of the best parts of the training because people want to be involved. People gaze. You know, you see traffic on one side of the road held up because something happened on the other side of the road. It's just the sense of human connectivity.

HEFFERNAN: But that sometimes expresses itself in negative ways. Someone takes out their phone and streams video of the bleeding victim. Someone talks about seeking revenge. The training teaches that these are natural responses. The best thing to do is to give people something - anything really - to do on the scene.

J. JOURNEY: Because a lot of time, all of that built-up energy is just a void of not knowing what to do. And so we give them something to do. I need a glass of water. That vengefulness - that, man, I can't believe who did this. I'm so angry. That comes from them wanting to do something.

HEFFERNAN: Another part of the training focuses on dealing with paramedics and police arriving at the scene. Kenisha says when the first paramedic walked in the door, he actually told her daughter to take her hands off Starks. And his wound just started gushing. Luckily, another paramedic came in and told her to put her hands back on until they could do a proper handoff.

K. JAMISON: Because we do train...

HEFFERNAN: Listen to the paramedic.

J. JOURNEY: Right.

K. JAMISON: give it over to the other person. That's common. But the challenge is she's black. She's in a black neighborhood. And she's a child.

HEFFERNAN: In other words, she worries that when people see a young black person, like her daughter, they assume they aren't helping. She says the same thing can go for police, which can quickly turn dangerous.

Chicago's fire department, which includes ambulance services, says it's aware of the group and supports residents helping to tend to serious wounds. UMedics says it now knows of five instances where people have successfully used this training for a gunshot wound.

Journey and Kenisha say in addition to trying to save lives, it's about empowerment, about knowing that the community has your back. That's why at the end of every session, UMedics trainers ask the group, do you think the people in this room could help you if you were hurt? Do you think they would? Overwhelmingly, people say yes. For NPR News, I'm Shannon Heffernan.


Shannon Heffernan