The program started at the scene of the accident thanks to the Princeton Highway Extrication Crew and Princeton Ambulance paramedics. Tag teaming their job description with an accident scene wreckage, the knowledgeable volunteers walked the students through the first responders immediate actions to stabilize, save and protect the victims. The mock scene included real life accident vehicles from real life accidents that these crews attended on Highway #3 where real people’s lives hung in the balance. Their choice of vehicles was no mistake, but rather part one of the reality check.
From the accident scene, the students were taken to the emergency room. Locum doctor, Dr. Ford and Princeton General Hospital manager Cherie Whittaker walked the kids through a victim’s emergency room treatment upon arrival at the hospital. Ford had compiled an emergency room team that included local nurses who also volunteered for the program. Nurses Sarah Antonick and Carol Tyson showed the students some of the instruments they would use and talked about possible injuries and outcomes including the most dreaded, death. “There is a golden hour to stabilize patients,” said Tyson. “We are working on our young patients and thinking about the fact that most of us are moms and that these victim’s have moms. It is tough. I have seen moms on their hands and knees on the floor crying.”
Ford talked specifics, walking students through possible scenarios necessary for stabilization. He talked tubes and injuries. “Shock from blood loss and brain injury can cause death.”
Each student was given a special shooter. The shooter was a charcoal mixture that is given to drug overdose patients. “We would make you drink this,” said Tyson, “it binds with toxic compounds so they don’t absorb in your body. None of you guys want to come in here.”
Why were the students being taken on this journey? “This program is to get drug prevention messaging out there. It is to stop drinking and driving. It is to educate and help young drivers make smart choices,” said RCMP officer Amelia Hayden. Corporal Hayden is a Drugs and Organized Crime Awareness Coordinator from Kelowna. “It’s not us the police who can do everything or the educators,” said Hayden. “It takes a village to make our youth safe.” Hayden was impressed by the volunteers who came forward to help with the program. “There are a lot of people here today.”
From the emergency room, the Grade 10’s students were taken to a dark place. Regional Coroner Mark Coleman took the kids to the morgue. “Every 45 minutes, thirty teenagers die in Canada.” This is a statistic. “Sometimes a victim comes here directly from the scene,” said Coleman. “Sometimes they come here from the emergency room after they are pronounced dead. Parents want to know how their child died and they want to see them. Sometimes we won’t let them depending on the severity of the injuries. I investigate many alcohol and drug related deaths each year. Toxicology results take four to six weeks and then sometimes while parents are still trying to make sense of losing their child, I have to phone them with more bad news.”
Mother’s Against Drunk Driving made a short movie for the students to watch next. The movie had clips with family members who had lost their loved one. “I miss my parents being happy,” said one sister. “I miss being a family.”
“It is hard to live with the fact that your child is never coming home,” stated a mother. “I ask myself – who would you be today Brent? My surviving kids have lost their brother to death and their parents to grief. We’re part of a club nobody wants to belong to.”
Constables Anthony Pankratz and Kelcy Slocombe walked students through the legal end of things. They talked legal consequences. They gave students the opportunity to swish mouthwash around in their mouth and see just how little of an amount of alcohol could be read on their hand held breathalyzer device.
Anke Smit is a physiotherapist who has had many patients come to her for rehabilitation after an accident. She taped up limbs, eyes and more to simulate disabilities. “There is a lot of physical and mental pain that comes along with recovery,” said Smit, “Often people have to accept the fact that they will never be the same person physically.”
Constable Slocombe’s reason for being a part of the program came from a very personal place. Her mom was the victim of a drunk driver. “My mom was in a coma for ten days. She is not the same person she was. She suffered a brian injury.”
Constable Pankratz said, “I enjoy this end of my job much more that mopping up accidents. We attend all kinds of accidents many that could be avoided.”
“Drivers can be impaired by alcohol, drugs and fatigue and then there is distracted driving which can have just as serious of consequences,” added Slocombe.
Slocombe and Pankratz brought along a contract for the students. The contract is called “Contract for life.” It is meant to open up a dialogue about drinking and driving and driving safety. It is meant to stop reckless driving. It is to be signed by the student and a person or person’s of the student’s choice to promise to ask and receive a ride if necessary.”
Michele Sutter was the last part of the reality check. Sutter is a mother of grown children. She made the wrong choice back in the early ‘70’s and has lived in a wheelchair ever since. “I was high and drunk and so was everyone else in our car including the driver,” said Sutter. “I had on no seat belt and I flew out of the car onto the road. I have not been able to feel my legs since that day.”
The day was intense. PSS principal Sandee Blair said, “the reason we target the Grade 10’s is because that is typically the time they are getting their driver’s licenses.”
Jamie Rempel coordinated the program with her employer Weyerhaeuser all the volunteers. “I think that this program is inspirational and hopefully it will change some the choices people make.”
Terry Kalaski works with the RCMP in a Restorative Justice capacity out of the Penticton office. “This is the first program for this region. Princeton is the first and I think it turned out excellent.”
Whitaker said, “I would like to see this program done again.”
Constable Slocombe stated, “this program seemed very powerful.”
Scott Musgrove from Young Life said, “I am just hopeful that the kids will make the right choices. Life can be great and it starts with making good decisions.”
“This took two months of coordination to pull off. We all worked together well adn I strongly believe that knowledge is power.”
“Being pro-active is the first step,” concluded Hayden.