Trauma surgeons coping with daily gun violence victims: "this is a disease"

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58)-- Trauma surgeons at Froedtert Hospital say it's become the norm to treat several gun violence victims every single day, and it shouldn't be.

They call violence a disease that needs to be treated and are working with community groups to try and break the cycle.

Dr. Libby Schroeder said violent nights like Thursday night, Oct. 7, have been happening for almost two years, and they take a toll.

She said gun violence in Milwaukee is a pandemic of its own as the city is losing sons and daughters regularly.

"What used to be a really, really busy week is now quiet for us. Which is a terrible way to be."

Dr. Schroeder and her 15 fellow trauma surgeons at Milwaukee's only Level 1 trauma center are tired of gun violence, of trying to save victims, of telling families their loved ones won't make it.

She adds that sometimes the numbers are overwhelming.

Dr. Schroeder said, "It's easy to quickly forget these are people's sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, friends."

Milwaukee Police reports while year-to-date homicides are up only slightly in 2021, the number of non-fatal shootings is skyrocketing this year.

On Friday, Milwaukee Alderwoman Milele Coggs wrote: "Milwaukee is seeing record levels of violence and last night was no different, as we all search for answers on ways to stop the deadly outbreak plaguing our city."

Dr. Schroeder says, historically, victims of gun violence are young, Black men, and they're seeing that at Froedtert, but it's impacting everyone.

She said, "I know, though, that our colleagues over at Children's are suffering, as well. And seeing unprecedented levels of violence in children."

Hospital responders at Froedtert interact with nearly every patient and their families, and violence interrupters from 414LIFE work to break the cycles. Dr. Schroeder said, "We spend a lot of time working with them in collaboration to try to stop a lot of the retaliation."

But she is confident these are fixable problems, a disease that can be treated.

"We spend a lot of time talking about how to put ourselves out of business."

Dr. Schroeder says there are mental health resources available for the medical responders, and many have learned coping skills over the years.

But she adds thar it's not the kind of job you can just walk away from, and many things come home with her every day.

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