INDIANAPOLIS — Last week marked an especially violent week in Indianapolis, where several juveniles were injured in shootings, including an 8-year-old girl and a 10-year-old boy on the Fourth of July.

Another boy was the victim in a shooting hours later on Eugene Street, when he was hit by a stray bullet while watching fireworks. These three victims are among more than 50 people under the age of 18 that have been injured in a shooting this year across Indianapolis and survived.

“We’ve definitely seen an increase in the number of firearm-related injuries,” said Dr. Matt Landman, trauma medical director for Riley Hospital for Children.

Riley Hospital treats patients from beyond Indianapolis, and last week alone, Landman said they treated five shooting victims within a five-day span.

“We’ve treated in one week, probably more victims of gun violence in one week than any other week that I can think of for the last seven years that I’ve been at Riley Hospital,” said Landman. “What I’ve been thinking about is if all five of those patients were injured at the same time in the same place, our local and probably national conversation would be incredibly different around that.”

Landman added, “I would implore the community at-large to think about these victims, whether it’s one or five or God forbid more, in a short period of time as each significant and each really being an important nidus for us to have a deeper conversation about how we can make this problem less of an issue moving forward.”

This year, data shows that Riley Hospital has treated 25 gunshot victims, with 19 of those being due to violence and the other six, accidental. The number of gunshot victims that the hospital has treated has increased every year since 2018, when Riley Hospital treated a total of 29 people shot, including 21 cases that were due to violence.

It was also in 2018 where the hospital treated nearly the same amount of gunshot victims by the end of the year that they have treated since the start of 2022.

After a gunshot victim, regardless of age, is taken to the hospital, we don’t often hear more about how they’re doing and because of that, people may not even realize how significant of an impact an act of violence or an unintentional shooting, can have on a person and their family.

“Bullets spare no body part. They are and can be disastrous to a wide variety of parts of the body,” said Landman. “We’ve seeing patients, for instance, who have been paralyzed for the rest of their life. We’ve seen patients lose arms, legs, pieces of their intestine.”

Sometimes, they see patients who they unfortunately aren’t able to save with any amount of medical care.

“We’ve seen horrific injuries in the emergency department. We’ve lost patients in the emergency department who are so badly wounded that no amount of resuscitation, fluid medicines, whatever we can give them, can save them,” said Landman.

“The ultimate reality is that some of these victims we never see, and they go directly from the scene to a coroner’s office and, you know, that’s an area which I as a trauma surgeon never even had the opportunity to try and save a life,” Landman explained.

This year at least seven people under 18 have been shot and killed in Indianapolis. That’s on top of at least 55 people under under 18 that have survived shootings.

In addition to people injured or killed at the hands of another person, Landman said they also treat victims of firearm-related injuries that are accidental. He’s encouraging people to take steps to be extra cautious when handling firearms or having them in the home.

“Whatever you can do to safely secure a firearm in the home can really prevent tragedy and sadly our youngest patients tend to be the ones that are curious,” said Landman. “They do play with firearms if they’re lying around and sadly lose their lives by stray bullets because of that fact.”

Regardless of the seriousness of a physical gunshot injury, Landman said the impacts have the potential to be lifelong for both the victim and their families. People don’t just go home from gunshot wounds, they frequently have long-term complications and need additional surgeries, have pain syndromes, and deal with mental health challenges.

“Acute Stress Disorder (ASD), which is kind of our reaction to any traumatic event, is a very real thing for all trauma patients, but particularly our youngest trauma patients,” said Landman. “It’s something that we work with our teams to try and treat and if untreated, those are things that lead to long-term mental health problems; the first and foremost would be Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.”

As the hospital works to address trauma in young shooting victims, that is also happening across Indianapolis through a new program expanding resources and advocacy services for nonfatal shooting victims and their families in the city.

DeAndra Dycus took on her role as the manager of non-fatal victim advocacy and support, which is housed within IMPD’s Aggravated Assault Branch, several months ago. For Dycus, this new effort is personal because she also knows what it feels like to be looking for places to turn after a loved one suffers a traumatic gunshot injury.

In Feb. 2014, her son DeAndre Knox, then 13 years old, was hit by a stray bullet while attending a birthday party. A stray bullet entered the home where the gathering was being held on Indy’s northwest side, striking Dre in the back of the head, paralyzing him and leaving without the ability to speak.

Since then, Dycus has been one of the leading voices in the fight against gun violence in the city, founding Purpose 4 My Pain. Through her non-profit, she works to help support families and show them that they’re not alone in their grief and healing. It’s exactly what she’s helping bring to the city on an even bigger scale.

To create this position and support its efforts to help those impacted by nonfatal shootings navigate resources, a grant was applied for through the Office of Public Health and Safety (OPHS). It was approved and is being funded through American Rescue Plan dollars allocated to the city of Indianapolis.

The city invested $650,000 for the first three years of the program, which will be used for staffing and equipment towards its successes, and after that, the department will decide next steps.

Dycus said a new website will be launched soon and it will be a place that people can come for a one-stop-shop access to resources for survivors of gun violence. It is slated to launch this week.

Like the Victim Assistance Unit advocates, Dycus is also working to connect families she meets through her work with IMPD with resources, whether it be a support group or home health resources, and said trauma-informed care and therapy will be at the top of their referrals.

If you would like to get in touch with Dycus, you can reach her at DeAndra.Yates@Indy.Gov.

This year, the city has experienced 308 non-fatal shooting incidents, compared to 343 at this time last year, a decrease of 10.2% in non-fatal shootings.

In May, results of a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) were released, showing that more than 45,222 children and adolescents were killed by gunfire in 2020 — a new peak. Experts also said firearm-related injuries are now the leading cause of death among children in the 1 to 19 age group.