Youth program drives home sobering message about impaired and distracted driving

By Tanya Cronin
March 13, 2018 - 3:48pm Updated: March 13, 2018 - 5:26pm

KAMLOOPS — A serious car crash after a few drinks at a party: something nobody wants to imagine. But it's exactly what happened to a dummy "patient" — and these Kamloops teenagers are witnessing the trauma.

Dozens of high school students from Westsyde and Norkam secondary schools are taking part in the 'Prevent Alcohol and Risk Related Trauma in Youth' program — or 'P.A.R.T.Y' — and immersing themselves in real-life hospital situations.

"This could happen to any of us at any party or experience in high school. A lot of it was kind of shocking being in the ER while it was happening," says Jimmy Gustason, Grade 11 Westsyde Secondary student.

The students were part of several eye-opening scenerios. They watched as patient 'Alex' was rushed into the ER after a head-on collision, doctors and nurses trying everything to save him.

"He was badly injured, we knew that when he came in, and despite everything we could possibly do in our emergency department — and we're a tertiary trauma centre — so we have full capabilities, we were unable to save him," says Lisa Whitman, RIH trauma nurse coordinator. 

It might have been a simulation but it felt all too real. A hands-on and harsh dose of reality.

"This is a very realistic thing that unfortunately we do have to deal with, and as health care providers, I would love to prevent all injury and never have to resuscitate. Especially with a young person, it's really a difficult thing to do," says Whitman.

Hearing from speakers and community partners about the devastating effects of even the simplest of decisions, there was no holding back. Motor vehicle accidents are the single biggest source of brain injury, making the message about impaired and distracted driving vital.

"You can tell teenagers things, they're not always going to listen. But you show it to him and it really sinks in. So being able to come up here to the hospital with medical professionals and actually seeing results of car crashes and bad decisions really gets to teenagers the way mom and dad's words never do," says Dave Johnson, executive director, Kamloops Brain Injury Association.

Likely the most sobering part of the tour was visiting the hospital morgue and experiencing what it's like for a family member called to identify a lost loved one.

The goal of the P.A.R.T.Y program is to encourage young people to make smart choices. By their reactions, these teenagers have been left with a new perspective on safety, especially while behind the wheel.  

"The thing that stood out the most was when they say it's not worth trying anymore, patient is dead there's nothing else they can do. Even if you bring them back it's not going to be a good life for them anymore," says Jared Carrier, Grade 11 Westsyde Secondary student.

"A lot of us have been here, or seen this through friends and parents and I think it's all too common," says Gustason.

Fire investigators say Westsyde duplex fire began in basement