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Students get lesson in PARTY safety

By Michael Lea, Kingston Whig-Standard
Wednesday, October 30, 2013 6:01:37 EDT PM

Article

KINGSTON - About 25 high school students went to a party Wednesday
morning. It was an experience they all hope they will never have to go through
again.

The party, in this case, stands for Prevent Alcohol and Risk-Related Trauma
in Youth, and the daylong initiative was designed to make them think twice
about making decisions that could put them at risk.

The Grade 10 and 11 girls from a gym class at Regiopolis-Notre Dame
Catholic High School were taking part in the launch of the first PARTY
program in Kingston. It was hosted by Kingston General Hospital and
Kingston Partners for a Safe Community.

The injury prevention and youth education program, which incorporates area
safety organizations, is designed to help students recognize situations that
could be potentially dangerous for them and help them consider the outcome
of poor decision-making.

They heard from the emergency personnel who are called in to deal with the
results of impaired or distracted driving and also got a tour of the hospital
emergency ward and pathology department.

Wiebke Wilkens, president of Kingston Partners for a Safe Community, said
the program started in 1986 at Sunnybrook Medical Centre and has spread to
other countries since then.

Organizations such as hers have been offering similar programs for years,
she said, but PARTY complements those efforts.

“It brings the message home to students about the importance of injury
prevention and making smart choices.

“It is quite different than having a speaker come to a school,” she said.
The program brings in emergency personnel to walk the students through
what actually would happen in a situation such as a car crash.

“It has a much more dramatic effect on them. It has the element of realism.”

Eight more sessions with students from other high schools will run through the
remainder of the school year.

She said the program is geared towards Grade 11 and 12 students because
they are the ones who are just starting to get their driver’s licences and are
being exposed to more high-risk activities.

Cathy Dain, an advanced practice nurse in trauma services at KGH, said the
program can be found in many trauma units around the world now, including
Japan, Australia, Europe and the United States.

It gives the participants the visual impact of seeing what would happen to
them or to a friend if they were injured in a car accident caused by someone
using poor judgment, she said.

A lot of the trauma they see in the emergency room has to do with young
people taking a risk, she added. “That’s what we are trying to impart to the
kids — just to make better choices, to think about things that they are doing.”

This is the first time trauma services have taken students into the emergency
room or into the pathology department so they can learn about the
consequences of their actions, Dain said.

“They don’t really see anything that’s scary. We don’t want to scare them. We
want them to just think about things. And we want them to go home and talk
to their parents.”

The first video the students saw set the tone for the day. Grinding crashes,
mangled bodies and weeping survivors left the room silent when the screen
went black as the students witnessed the carnage that drunk or distracted
driving could cause.

“There is no such thing as an accident,” began Const. Mark Wellwood from
the Frontenac detachment of the Ontario Provincial Police. There is a cause
for every mishap on the road and they are usually preventable, he said.

He recounted some of the more horrific scenes he has encountered over the
years, including a fiery crash by a truck transporting pumpkins. The driver
hadn’t been wearing his seatbelt and was killed. To this day, the officer can’t
stand the smell of pumpkin pie.

He also reminded them of the dangers of distracted driving. He had driven his
own car down from his detachment and counted 14 drivers on their cellphones
during the trip.

“You have a huge life in front of you,” he told the students. “Don’t forget to be
there to enjoy it.”

Capt. Rick Vasko of Kingston Fire and Rescue also gave some graphic
accounts of scenes he had witnessed. It isn’t just the people in the vehicles
who suffer, he said. Accidents also take a toll on the survivors and their
families.

“We’ve seen that,” he said. “We’ve witnessed the pain, the despair.”

He took an empty pop can and crumpled it in his hands, demonstrating what
happens to a car in a serious collision.

“We have to peel the car off you,” he said.

He told them of the day 40 years ago when his older brother lost a close
friend in a motorcycle accident. It devastated his brother, and the friend’s
family was never the same again.

“I remember that day like it was yesterday,” he said. “It leaves an impact on
you you never believe."

Deputy Chief Dave Gemmill from Frontenac Paramedics began his talk by
telling the students how he lost his older brother to an accident when they
were still children.

He said local paramedics respond to 1,000 motor vehicle crashes each year,
most of them preventable.

Paramedics Andrea Baker and Jeremie Hurtubise simulated treating an
accident victim on the scene of a crash, getting them ready for transport to the
hospital.

The most candid line of the day came from pathologist assistant George
Thorne.

“If it weren’t for alcohol, youth and stupidity, I probably wouldn’t have a job,”
he said.

Too often he sees the results of young people mixing alcohol and driving.

The students had been taken into a lab in the pathology department at the
hospital and were gathered around an old autopsy table.

Thorne passed around samples of liver, lungs and brain for the students to
examine. Many passed them on quickly, but a few inspected them closely.
Some grimaced and looked away when he described how he would conduct
an autopsy on a crash victim.

He explained how he tries to keep a professional distance from his subjects on his tables but admitted the youngest ones are the hardest from which to remain emotionally detached.

Josee Bessette from the Ministry of Transportation’s road safety marketing
office explained how long alcohol remains in the body, surprising the girls by
revealing a person can still be legally drunk the afternoon after drinking at a
nighttime party.

Personal injury lawyer Emma Hurd provided a fictional case in which a boy
had borrowed his father’s car without permission and then got into an
accident that killed him and left his girlfriend in a wheelchair.

The financial fallout of such an accident and the need to pay for the girl’s
lifetime of medical care could easily bankrupt both families, she said.

The girls also heard about the need for organ donations and the threat of
drug-facilitated sexual assault.

Regi student Samantha Mahoney, 16, said she is more aware now “how small
decisions that you make can affect you.”

“I actually learned a lot, just learning generally about making good choices
and how the choices that you make can affect you.”

She found the session on how long alcohol can stay in your body particularly
interesting.

She hasn’t been faced with many of the scenarios portrayed in the day’s
sessions, but “as I get older, I will definitely carry this experience with me
when I am making decisions.”

She promised to pass the information on to her friends at school to help them
make good decisions in their own lives.

Katherine Kennedy, also 16, had been particularly affected by the visit to the
pathology department.

“It kind of gets to you because it is real. It is easy to watch the shows about it
because you know it’s fake, but when you see it up close, it is a little nervewracking.”

She thought the day was worthwhile and definitely got through to the students.

“It is effective because it scares us. I will keep it in the back of my mind
forever. I think I will always remember this, for sure.”