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Teens get real life look at consequences of reckless driving

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WATERTOWN — A simulated trauma program for young drivers called Lets Not Meet by Accident brought Sackets Harbor Central High School students to the front line of medical emergencies at Samaritan Medical Center.

On Monday, five days before their prom, 47 students from the school’s health classes and Students Against Destructive Decisions club learned what would happen if they arrived at the hospital after an accident. The program included a tour of the ambulance bay, helicopter pad and morgue.

“The kids have seen public service announcements and heard that they shouldn’t drink and drive or text while driving,” said Jennifer Castle, event organizer and registered nurse at Samaritan. “This will focus on seeing things up close.”

The program is a volunteer event involving Samaritan nurses and doctors, Guilfoyle Ambulance Service Inc., LifeNet of New York air medical transportation service and members of the state police.

The volunteers wanted to bring home to students the reality of how impaired and reckless driving can have painful consequences. “It happens here too often and it’s something we want to expose you to on purpose,” said Dr. Maja L. Lundborg-Gray, emergency department physician at Samaritan, addressing the students.

Eighteen-year-old Morgan Stevens saw the presentation as more than just a simulation of what could happen. It was a recap of what actually happened to her in Adams in August 2012.

“I’ve been through this process,” Morgan said. “Going through this now is just reminding me of how lucky I am to be alive.”

She said she wasn’t wearing her seat belt when the car she was riding in flipped 10 times. She remembers the accident, an ambulance ride and ultimately being airlifted to Upstate Medical Center, Syracuse.

She said alcohol, drugs or texting were not factors in the accident.

“He just overcorrected, and when the car hit a tree stump, that’s when the car flipped,” Morgan said. “It all happened so fast.”

Morgan broke her neck and back in the accident but didn’t need surgery. Doctors told her she was lucky she could walk and wasn’t paralyzed. Her boyfriend suffered a broken nose but the two people in the front, who wore seat belts, sustained no serious injuries.

Morgan said this year she was able to rejoin the basketball and soccer teams but still experiences pain.

“I still live with pain everyday,” she said. “But everyday it gets a little easier to take. I hope the other kids all listen to the advice of these professionals. I hope they don’t make the decision I did to not wear a seat belt.”

She said that after the accident the community showed a lot of support for her and her family. These gestures showed her how something like this doesn’t affect just one person. “It’s not just traumatic for me but also for my family and the whole community,” Morgan said.

Guilfoyle President and CEO Bruce G. Wright and Director of Operations Joseph M. Bova described to the students what happens when their crews arrive at the scene of an emergency. With the help of volunteers, they simulated how to stabilize someone with a neck or back injury.

Sophomore Damien V. Clay, who volunteered to play the victim, was strapped to a wooden back board.

“It was extremely uncomfortable,” Damien said. He said the instructors told him anyone with a neck or spine injury would have to be strapped to the board for five or more hours. “It makes you think you don’t want to be in that position.”

The tour ended in the morgue, which some students opted not to enter. Registered nurse Karen P. Johnson led students into a small room and showed them tools used to dismember bodies. By making smart choices, the students can help spare their parents the pain of having to identify their bodies in that room, she said.

State police trooper Dominic R. Doldo said young drivers often take to the road with greater recklessness around the time of prom and graduation.

Sophomore Cole G. Carswell said he recently earned his driver’s license. After going through the program, he said he sees his license as a privilege and wants to make good decisions.

“I know I got a lot of responsibility when I got my license,” Cole said. He plans to be a designated driver on prom night.

The program ended with information about organ donation.

Mrs. Castle said schools request the program. Every summer a simulation is held for the city’s drivers education class.

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