The Price of Life: Trauma surgeon, shooting survivor reflect on gun violence

The Price of Life: Trauma surgeon, shooting survivor reflect on gun violence

SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) - After a shooting, KSLA unfortunately has to often report a piece of information that’s become all too common: “the victim was taken to the hospital where they later died.”

For the past six years, Dr. Navdeep Samra, associate professor of surgery at Ochsner-LSU Health System in Shreveport, has been treating countless shooting victims. He’s become numb to the grim reality of these violence incidents.

“You have to mentally prepare yourself for what could be the worst possible scenario,” said Samra. “That’s a patient who’s bleeding to death.”

Ochsner-LSU Health is the only Level 1 trauma center in the region, the highest level of trauma center. This is where victims are taken after a shooting.

“It’s very satisfying being able to save a dying patient who’s bleeding to death,” said Samra. “Sometimes I’m not able to save all these patients and that’s a sinking feeling.”

According to Samra, in 2017 alone, over 220 gunshot victims were treated at Ochsner-LSU. Just this year, there have been already 180 shooting victims taken to Northwest Louisiana’s Level 1 trauma center.

Samra sees many of these patients.

“That’s almost one every other day, sometimes two a day,” said Samra. “What is the reason, what is the trigger for the gunshot?”

Across town, an affable Juan Zuniga manages a busy lunch hour at El Compadre, a popular Mexican restaurant on Kings Highway. Despite his personable and kind character, Zuniga finds himself part of an unfortunate statistic: he is a shooting victim.

“I was doing my normal activities I would do on a typical work day,” said Zuniga. “Everything else is a blur because I don’t remember what else happened that day.”

On July 24, 2017, Zuniga was shot twice in the chest defending his mother from two men who were trying to steal her purse outside El Compadre.

“You can’t take everyday for granted,” said Zuniga.

Samra treated Zuniga’s wounds, but was convinced Zuniga was not going to survive.

“I don’t remember my stay in the emergency room," Zuniga said.

Despite the odds, Zuniga survived, but not without an extensive and painful recovery. He was in the hospital for two months after the shooting.

“Thank you to all the people [medical staff] for their hard work in saving people’s lives including mine,” said Zuniga.

When Samra prepares to treat a shooting victim nowadays, he has one question: why?

“Why did it happen?” said Samra. “We could’ve prevented that.”

Samra said that a shooting victim has a twenty to twenty five percent increase in survival if they’re taken to a Level 1 trauma center.

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