Shock-Trauma program has powerful impact
The R. Adams Cowley Shock-Trauma Center did its best to discourage new customers Thuesday night in a presentation at the elite Gilman School that the Maryland Highway Safety Foundation wants to bring to the masses.
After a news conference at which the foundation announced its partnership with Shock-Trauma in a bid to expand the educational program to every school system in Maryland, nurses Debbie Yohn and Beverly Dearing gave the Gilman boys a vivid description of what they can expect to go through if they end up being taken to the center as a result of a traffic crash.
Particularly affecting was a video in which a young man named Sean -- brought to Shock-Trauma with irreversible brain damage he suffered in a crash -- lives out his final hours on a ventilator as his grieving father describes in unsparing terms what led to the crash. Sean, it turns out, had been smoking marijuana while driving around with a group of friends and ran a stop sign. He and a young woman passenger -- neither of them wearing seat belts -- were fatally injured.
"He thought he was invincible," the unnamed father said. "It's not natural for a parent to bury a child. Don't put your parents through this."
The video was followed by a talk by Kyle Gimbel, 23, who was 17 when he drove his car into a tree by the side of York Road at an estimated 60-65 mph.
Gimbel, whose speech remains impaired by the brain injuries he suffered in that crash, told the boys he had been drinking just before the crash. The former high school wrestler told them he nearly died several times but was pulled back from the brink by the emergency team at Shock-Trauma. He showed pictures of this car before and after the crash. The "after" shot made me wonder how anyone could have survived the impact.
After nearly a month at Shock-Trauma, Gimbel was transferred to Kernan Hospital for rehabilitation. He said he has learned to walk and use his arms again, but still struggles with the after-effects. Gimbel said his brain still doesn't work as it should and that his course work at Howard County Community College is a struggle.
Whether any of this penetrated the skulls of the high school students in a meaningful way is hard to determine. Some experts say teenagers are highly impervious to "shock and awe" tactics when it comes to their own driving behaviors. I certainly did a lot of stupid things behind the wheel after seeing those infamous Ohio Highway Patrol films.
But as Shock-Trauma board member Andy Billig put it, if it gets through to enough kids to save one life, that's good reason to spread the presentation throughout the state.
One suggestion for the presenters: Hit harder on the issue of multiple teenage passengers in a vehicle. There are statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration showing how the risks go up exponentially the more passengers are in a car with a teenager at the wheel -- especially at night. Even if the kids aren't deterred, you might get through to any parents in the room.