Shooting victims gather weekly at Washington, D.C.’s MedStar National Rehabilitation Center. The Washington Post says they are the survivors: men who know firsthand how gun violence disproportionately affects young black males and how even when a person lives, he often doesn't walk away. The Urban Re-Entry Group, the official name for the weekly gatherings, provides a searing view into Washington's street violence and costly aftermath. Most D.C. residents who survive traumatic spinal cord injuries will end up at the rehabilitation hospital, where they might spend months relearning how to feed themselves, write their names and get dressed on their own. Many of the men who pass through the group come with criminal records, limited education, and spotty work histories, meaning they were struggling before a bullet further sliced their chances for success.
Many will spend the rest of their lives dependent on government assistance for their array of prescriptions, endless doctor appointments and expensive wheelchairs, ramps and hospital-grade beds. Dr. Suzanne Groah, who heads the hospital's Spinal Cord Injury Research program, says the lifetime cost of keeping the most severely injured spinal cord patients healthy can run into the millions. For patients who are less disabled, the cost can be up to half a million dollars. Even with the best care, their life expectancy is shorter, with a bedsore possibly leading to surgery or a bladder infection to death. This year, a man rolled into a meeting newly legless after developing an infection. No one in the room seemed shocked. It isn't clear how many people in the region are confined to wheelchairs because of gun violence. Samuel Gordon, a clinical psychologist, has seen more than 100 people, most of them gunshot victims and almost all of them black, rotate through the voluntary support group since it was created more than two decades ago.