Pediatricians share their stories in advance of key Senate committee hearing, AAP president to testify
WASHINGTON, DC – In advance of today’s U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on gun violence prevention, more than 300 pediatricians submitted their own personal testimonies to the committee, illustrating how gun violence has impacted their patients, communities and lives. The stories, which were submitted in just over two days, range from heart-wrenching accounts of patients who have been victims of gun violence to gripping examples of the long-term trauma caused by exposure to gun violence. Excerpts from some of the powerful testimonies are at the bottom of this release.
“The number of pediatricians who took the time to tell their stories is a true testament to how profoundly gun violence impacts children and how extensively it has transformed our profession. These stories span 40 states, touch on specialties ranging from surgery to neonatology, and collectively demonstrate that the doctors who care for children injured and killed by guns are themselves forever shaped by gun violence,” said American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) President Moira Szilagyi, MD, PhD, FAAP. “I hope the senators who read these testimonials are moved to enact meaningful policy change.”
During the hearing, Dr. Szilagyi will testify before senators to discuss the toll of gun violence on young people and the need for comprehensive policies that will keep children safe. She will urge the Senate to complete action on the recently announced bipartisan framework as a first needed step to address gun violence.
“These testimonies should be required reading for every Senator and Representative. Their words and perspectives vary, but their common thread is urgency. Children and adolescents are dying. We must act now,” said Dr. Szilagyi. “Pediatricians will continue to speak up in every way we know how until we see meaningful policy change.”
If you are interested in receiving an embargoed copy of Dr. Szilagyi’s testimony and/or interviewing Dr. Szilagyi, please contact Devin Mazziotti (firstname.lastname@example.org). Please note: Dr. Szilagyi’s testimony is embargoed until 10 a.m. ET on Wednesday, June 15.
Pediatrician testimony excerpts: The full testimonies can be found in this document. Page numbers are listed below.
Children who are shot are usually rushed to the hospital—without their parents—as fast as possible by EMS or police. So I have looked into the terrified eyes of many children after they’ve been shot and tried to comfort them. I tell them that they’re in a safe place now, that we’re going to take care of them, while around them our ER staff moves quickly, cutting off clothes, placing IVs, assessing the injuries, treating pain, and doing our best to minimize the damage after the injury occurred.
The feeling of their scared eyes, locked on mine, while I tell them they’re safe, is a feeling I don’t forget. There is a promise in that look we share. They desperately want an adult to take care of them. I tell them they’re safe in a safe place now, but in my heart, I don’t know if they are. – Dr. Halden Scott, Denver, CO, Pediatric Emergency Medicine, Page 4
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One of the many that I have treated in the emergency department and the Level 1 trauma center was a young child who pulled his father’s gun and pretended to play war with his brother; not knowing that the gun was real and loaded he fatally shot his 6-year-old brother in the chest.
The child kept crying hysterically, refusing to separate from his dead brother. The parents were agonized for the child who died and their other child who will carry the guilt of killing his brother for life. – Dr. Madeline Joseph, Jacksonville, FL, Pediatric Emergency Medicine, Page 32
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For example, last week, a mother brought in her 8-year-old daughter to discuss the child’s difficulties sleeping. Ever since she went through active shooter “run, hide, fight” drills at her elementary school, she has experienced nightmares. She cannot sleep in her own bed. She cannot sleep with the lights off. She cries nearly every day when her mother waves goodbye to her from the bus stop because she is scared it will be the last time she ever sees her mom. – Dr. Nancy Heavilin, Somers Point, NJ, General Pediatrics, Page 14
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The most recent child I treated who died of a gunshot wound was also shot by his brother, who was playing with a gun. As I was standing outside the family conference room collecting my thoughts, I looked down and noticed something on my shoe. It was a piece of brain matter that had fallen out while we were trying to resuscitate the boy. I wiped my shoes and went into the room to tell his mother he was gone. – Dr. Brian Jones, Chicago, IL, Pediatric General Surgery, Page 87
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Gun violence can occur at any time, any place and under any circumstances. In this case of road rage, the driver from another car got angry and shot the car through the trunk, and the bullet went into the child sitting in the
back seat. – Dr. Mustafa Kabeer, Irvine, CA, Pediatric Surgery, Page 21
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Children should be allowed, even encouraged, to make mistakes. That's what childhood is for—trying new things, acting out, and learning from experiences over and over again until both body and mind can mature into a wiser, if imperfect, adult.
Our role as adults in society is to make sure those expected childhood mistakes aren't fatal. We can't and shouldn't protect children from all harm. Wherever you personally draw the line, children getting shot should be well beyond what's acceptable. – Dr. Christopher Monson, Coralville, IA, Pediatric Critical Care, Page 34
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The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 67,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults. For more information, visit www.aap.org and follow us on Twitter @AmerAcadPeds.