SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — You usually hear about gun violence from the media, police, maybe even a friend, but what about a doctor?
William Paolo, Chair of Medicine at SUNY Upstate and an associate professor of emergency medicine, public health and preventative medicine, has seen the unpredictable and vulnerable side of such violence.
So far this year, the number of people shot or injured by gunfire is slightly down. Syracuse Police are crediting new strategies for the decline, but the numbers are still high.
74 people have been injured or killed by gunfire in the City of Syracuse.
“In this department, particularly in Syracuse, we see a lot of shootings. I came from New York City, did all of my training in Manhattan, was in NYU, was at Bellevue for my residency. And when I moved up here, I suspected it would be a lot less busy,” said Paolo.
But his findings were the exact opposite. Paolo says that he has seen more gunshot wounds here than he ever did in New York City.
“There’s been a proliferation of guns, and we see a lot of them here. And we certainly see a lot of poverty here, and the combination results in a lot more gunshot wounds, then say other municipalities,” he explained.
When someone has been shot, they may not know how many times. So, the doctors go in, strip the patient naked and begin to count the holes, trying to see how many they can find.
“We’re not experts in forensics, so when we’re not saying this is an entrance, this is an exit, we’re saying one, two, three and four,” Paolo said.
Paolo describes gunshot wounds as “precarious” and “unpredictable.” The doctors don’t always know what to expect and what the patient’s outcome will be.
“Who you are, how you got shot and the people I have seen, shot in the chest, multiple times and walked out of the hospital as opposed to someone I’ve seen shot in the chest once, and succumbed to that injury and died later. So it’s very difficult to predict,” said Paolo.
The society we live in currently doesn’t help with the violence either. There is a rise in gun violence and stabbings among the younger generation.
Paolo explained that they see a lot of those young people being shot, killed or maimed just by “living in a society that has a lot of guns and doesn’t have the socio-economic conditions that support community thriving.”
The stress and emotions inflicted onto these doctors can make it hard for them. Their job is to save lives, but there are times when they feel helpless in the act.
Paolo says they not only have to help these people, but want to. Yet, they are watching their youth taken from them at such a young age.
“We are seeing young people in the prime of their lives, just starting their lives, who are being shot, and coming in injured and terrified and living in these conditions,” he said.
The worst is when they see children.
“And when we see kids, and we see children and they’re injured, as hard as we work, as tough as we are, as strong as we have to be to get through it, it gets to us,” Paolo said.
With an already clogged emergency room, gunshot wounds and level-one traumas require ER teams to reorganize, adding to the stress for emergency room staff and wait time for care for emergency room patients.