Did This Boy Have To Die?

It might seem like the safest place to get shot would be outside a hospital emergency room. But it wasn't so for 15-year-old Christopher Sercye, hit by apparent gang gunfire while playing basketball in an alley just steps from Ravenswood Hospital.

His friends and a frantic neighbor sought help from hospital workers, but they said policy barred them from treating people outside.

Frustrated police officers, who called an ambulance and also sought help inside, finally brought the boy in, nearly half an hour he was shot, but it was too late.

A bullet had perforated Christopher's aorta and he died about an hour after the shooting.

"It's a ridiculous policy," James A. Maurer, deputy chief of patrol for the police district that includes the hospital, said Monday. "They don't leave the campus? What's that? They're standing out there having a smoke when the kid is in the alley bleeding."

He said police are trained to not move seriously injured people, but to wait for paramedics.

"We can't pick him up and carry him. What if the bullet moves?" Maurer said.

Finally, Maurer said, an officer concerned about the teen's condition commandeered a wheelchair and brought Christopher inside the emergency room.

"As time passed and it became apparent that paramedic response was delayed, I personally wish that we had gone out to see if we could have helped Christopher directly," said John E. Blair, president and chief executive officer of Ravenswood Hospital.

Blair said that the hospital is not a trauma center equipped to handle cases like Christopher's and staffers do not leave their duties to treat people outside.

Blair said the hospital planned to check with the city of Chicago on the number of calls made to 911. Authorities were reviewing reports that friends, police and hospital staffers all called 911 before an ambulance finally arrived as the boy was being taken inside the emergency room.

"We are determined to review Ravenswood's policies to make sure that something like this never happens again," Blair said.

Ravenswood staffers "probably would have been helpful to go out and see what they could have done for this patient," said Dr. Edmund Donoghue, Cook County's medical examiner.

To have survived, Christopher would have needed an immediate operation to repair his aorta, Donoghue said.

But, he added, there's no way of knowing whether Christopher could have survived had he received immediate treatment from Ravenswood doctors.

And Donoghue noted that under Chicago's trauma response system prompted by the 1984 fatal shooting of high school basketball star Ben Wilson, Christopher would have been taken to the nearest trauma center, about two miles away, had an ambulance arrived before he was taken inside Ravenswood.

Criticism erupted after the 1984 shooting because Wilson was taken to the nearest hospital, instead of a moe sophisticated facility that some said could have provided better treatment.

Hospital spokeswoman Milli Striegl said Christopher "went into cardiac arrest at the hospital. Everything was done to resuscitate him but unfortunately all attempts were unsuccessful."

A Fire Department spokesman denied any delay in dispatching an ambulance, saying that one arrived at the scene just four minutes after the department learned of the shooting.

Three teens who prosecutors said have gang affiliations were charged with first-degree murder in the shooting. Christopher was described as an innocent bystander who was not the intended target.

Amidst all the finger-pointing, neighbor Donna Dudley just shook her head.

"If we cannot be responsible as human beings to help each other, it's a shame," she said. "Nobody should have to lie in an alley dying next to a hospital."

©1998 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed