Milwaukee shooting tribe Froedtert trauma center, staff

Milwaukee’s homicide rate is at a new record high as gun violence rises.

Medical advances improve victims’ chances of survival, but it takes a toll on the people who rescue them.

“I think every time my trauma pager goes off, I get a little dimple in my stomach,” said Dr. Libby Schroeder of Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin.

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Then the clock starts ticking for Schroeder. As a trauma surgeon, she has learned to control her emotions at the door.

“If there’s something really bad, you can see it on the page, and sometimes it gives me a few minutes when I walk over here to collect myself,” she said. “My job is to keep a cool head and then do what I can to save that patient”

Trauma pager of Dr. Libby Schroeder

Schroeder said the trauma center saw an average of one gunshot victim per week; it is now on track to see an average of one person per day. The work does not stop at healing the physical wounds.

“We recognize that we can plug these gaps and repair the bones and these organs, and we’re sending these patients back to their communities and making sure we’re meeting the needs that they have,” Schroeder said.

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“We’ve been working a lot with the patients who came by: OK, let’s recalibrate your sense of security. So what’s a safe place to go? Who are the safest people for you to be around?”

As they go through the process at a rapidly increasing pace with younger loves on the line, the trauma staff experiences its own trauma.

Frödtert and the Medical College of Wisconsin

“That’s that moment in the operating room where you realize you’re about to lose this person and usually that’s a 20-year-old person,” Schroeder said. “Some of us have picked out places in the hospital where we’re going to decompensate after a bad case.”

“If you’re taking care of someone exactly the same age as you, and they come in because they just got shot, it’s one of those things it’s about,” says Nick Jazdzewski, an emergency room nurse at Froedtert & MCW.

Trauma Center Frödtert Hospital

With summer just around the corner, employees do not see the end in sight, but they do see a bright spot: the impact of their work.

“I think if we didn’t have the resources here that we have, a lot more people would have died from many of these different trauma-related accidents,” Jazdzewski said.

When it comes to mental health, Froedtert & MCW employees offer a peer support group. An emergency doctor started it in 2019 and the group already has 310 members.

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