Rippling awareness of the stupid line. Do not cross (14 photos)Saturday, March 23, 2013 by: Darren Taylor
(Editor's note: Warning. Our photo gallery below contains graphic images of simulated injuries.)
It is known as the P.A.R.T.Y. Program, but there is absolutely nothing light-hearted about it.
The Prevent Alcohol and Risk-Related Trauma in Youth (P.A.R.T.Y.) Program is a powerful day-long event, held monthly at Sault Area Hospital, in which medical professionals present to Sault and area high school students a simulated situation in which a “patient” covered in gory make-up, acting out the role of a critically ill person after he or she has indulged in dangerous, life-endangering behaviour involving alcohol and/or drugs, is treated by emergency room doctors and nurses.
A P.A.R.T.Y. Program was held Friday at SAH for two groups of Superior Heights Collegiate Grade 10 students.
By far the most shocking part of the day’s events was a real-life, unplanned viewing of a man who had suffered a drug overdose and had been officially declared brain dead by a SAH physician.
The man was only hours away from death.
The man’s family was gracious in allowing students and SooToday.com to view the man in SAH’s Intensive Care Unit (ICU).
You could hear a pin drop.
The day’s activities began with students gathered and observing in the emergency unit as paramedic Elyse Cormier was rushed in to the room by fellow paramedics.
Cormier was covered with make-up (applied by paramedic Daniel Langevin), which represented serious head, face and body injuries suffered in a simulated case of substance abuse.
A medical team, several members of which spent their day off to act out the simulation at SAH, was lead by Dr. Steven Smith.
SAH Emergency Department Registered Nurse Tricia Scornaiencki coordinated the day’s medical activities.
Medical staff told the students that young people are often rushed into the unit, in serious condition after indulging in drug and alcohol-related behaviour, from high school football games, semi-formals, or from accident scenes involving motor vehicles such as cars, trucks or ATVs.
The medical team told students that often youths who arrive with a traumatized friend fear hospital staff will report them to the police.
The students were reassured they would not be reported (except in cases where a weapon has been involved).
The critical thing, students were told, is to call 9-1-1 and save their friend.
The medical team also urged a volunteer from the group of students to taste a ghastly substance described as liquid charcoal.
Algoma Public Health Registered Nurse Maddy Kasubeck, who leads the P.A.R.T.Y. Program, said the substance, depending upon the situation, is used on a patient to rid the body of alcohol and drugs in the victim’s stomach before it gets absorbed by the body.
To help drive home the seriousness of such situations, Kasubeck told SooToday.com “it’s gross. That’s why we get the kids to taste it.”
“The clinical, vivid reality of all this is so much more powerful than speaking about this in a classroom,” Kasubeck said.
“It makes kids realize something wrong could happen if they cross what is called ‘the stupid line,’ like a spinal cord injury or a brain injury. It makes them think they are not invincible and could happen to them. It’s really a wake up for them. We really push the ‘don’t cross the stupid line’ message.”
Kasubeck added “the kids tend to pass on the message to their peers at school. There is a ripple effect to the program. Teachers and parents approach me and really want their kids to see the program.”
“We started the program in 2003 and did it for the first time in 2004 at the old Sault Area Hospital site. We ran into problems with space. There was only one trauma room at the old site, and then after the move to the new hospital site, we had to acquaint ourselves with many new staff,” Kasubeck told us.
That led the Sault P.A.R.T.Y. team to suspend their activities, but EMS, Sault Police, Arthur Funeral Home and Rotary stepped up to help revive the program when officials from Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto informed Kasubeck permission to hold the program in Sault Ste. Marie would be lost if they suspended their activities for more than one year.
Kasubeck said students from every Sault and area high school, including CASS and alternative learning groups, will be shown the P.A.R.T.Y. Program.
Arthur Funeral Home General Manager Bruce Cooke, who spoke to students at Friday’s event, told SooToday.com “when a tragedy like this happens, right away you feel heartbroken for the family. It can be prevented. There are good choices to make. I tell kids to communicate with their friends and parents and stay safe.”
“Whenever this happens and it relates to us at the funeral home, your heart just sinks. A huge tidal wave of grief hits the families.”
Cooke said he has seen a lot of preventable alcohol and drug related tragedy over the past 25 years.
“I’m getting emotional right now thinking about it. Our youth are the most important asset we have. When something like this happens, I see the kids at the funeral home coming to pay their respects to their friend, and they look so lost trying to deal with it.”
“With something like P.A.R.T.Y. you’re bringing that scenario to them, showing what could happen to them.”
Three survivors of alcohol-related accidents were on hand Friday to tell their stories to the students.
One of them, Diane Morrell, works for Spinal Cord Injury Ontario.
Morrell is confined to a wheelchair after an alcohol-related injury 24 years ago.
She spoke to students today at SAH’s physiotherapy department, and encouraged them to pretend they had lost the use of their legs while they attempted moving themselves on and off a bed.
Telling SooToday.com of her own experience, Morrell said “I was at a party tobogganing and I had been drinking wine. I went down the hill, went over a snowbank, and I hit the ground. That resulted in a spinal cord injury. I didn’t think at the time that having a few drinks was a big deal, but it is enough to impair thought processes. I lost all sense of direction, and when I hit the ground, I hit it full force.”
“I talk to kids about it all the time. My message to the kids is not to mix partying with activities, the risk is too great. I tell them not to party when they’re out on their four-wheelers, snow machines, bicycles, snowboards…not to mix drugs or alcohol with it.”
“All it takes is one injury, and it lasts forever.”
Morrell credits good family and friends and good social support in helping her cope with her injury.
Morrell added “if you’re a kid and something is bothering you, talk to somebody. Don’t do drugs or alcohol. There are counseling services available. Risky behaviour is not worth it.”
What was the reaction of P.A.R.T.Y.’s target audience, the students of Superior Heights?
Joseph Junior Stadnisky told us the day’s events “really made me consider what my choices are, the risk of what I could do to myself and others. I won’t consider drinking until I’m older, and be responsible about it.”
Roger Moss told us “it was an eye opener, how fast life can go by, and how it can be wasted,” adding he was especially moved upon seeing the brain dead man in the Intensive Care Unit.
Both young men vowed not to indulge in risk-related behaviour and said they would “definitely” share Friday’s lesson with their peers.