It was all about loss of control.
On May 24, I had the opportunity to be a victim in a mock car crash during the Preventing Alcohol and Risk-related Trauma in Youth (PARTY) Program at the Humboldt Uniplex.
As a former lifeguard, I thought the experience would be old hat. I’ve been in many mock emergency situations in the past and didn’t realize how different this one would be.
The first step of the day was to put on our make-up. When most people think of make-up, they think of foundation, mascara, lipstick — girly stuff designed to make you more beautiful. Our make-up for the event was the opposite. After getting a facefull of cold cream, bruises and cuts were formed out of plasticine on our faces. Bruises, blood smears and grim were painted on. We looked gruesome.
After getting our make-up put on, we headed out to the cars. My job was to be an unconscious victim in a car with a drunk driver, a car that hit another vehicle, also with two occupants.
I was told by both the EMTs and firefighters that although a victim may be unconscious, quite frequently they can still hear and feel everything that is happening to them. I kept that in mind during the entire process.
When the tarp was pulled off the crash site, I was unconscious. I could hear the “driver” of the other car. She wasn’t really screaming, but there was panic in her voice as she questioned what happened and worried about her friend, who was lying on the hood of our car.
Next were the sirens. Everyone knows the sound of the sirens as they scream down the street, rushing to an emergency, but to hear them coming for you is a completely different situation. They are loud.
As the situation progressed, I realized I had absolutely no control over anything that was happening. After the “driver” of the car I was in was removed, there was suddenly a flurry of movement all around me.
Someone came into the car beside me and asked if I was okay.
Since I was pretending to be unconscious, I was unable to answer. Once it was determined, by taking my pulse, that I was alive, I was suddenly surrounded by emergency personnel.
As a lifeguard in a mock emergency situation, you usually know all the people touching you and talking to you so, in the past, I never felt uncomfortable being touched during a mock situation.
As a reporter, I have met the emergency workers, but I don’t really know them. I don’t work with them every day. I’m not close friends with them. I recognize them to see them on the street, to have a casual conversation with them when I see them places or interview them when something has happened.
Lying there unconscious, my personal bubble was being invaded by people I didn’t really know. They were touching me all over to see if I had injuries other than what they could see.
I know they did not touch me as much as they would touch a victim in a real collison. They will not just touch your arms and legs. They will completely invade your personal space. If you have a piece of glass embedded in your inner thigh, they need to know.
They have to touch you everywhere to ensure they don’t miss something, because that could be the difference between life or death.
The good thing is although I was unconscious, they still made an effort to make me feel more comfortable. Whenever a new person would start working on or near me, he or she would introduce themselves. Although I cannot remember who was all at the car helping me, it did help make me feel more secure.
The one I can remember the most is firefighter Craig Stomp, who crawled into the back seat of the car and held my head still. He talked to me almost the entire time the others were determining injuries and trying to figure out the best way to get me out of the car.
Whenever someone is found unconscious and you did not see what happened, you are supposed to assume they have a spinal injury. I remember having that drilled into my head when I was in my first lifeguard course. Since the emergency crews found me unconscious, they assumed a spinal injury.
I was put in a c-collar, which stopped my head and neck movement. An oxygen mask was put over my mouth and nose. Then came the worst part of the experience.
The door of the car was stuck. The firefighters could not open it. A tarp was draped over me to make sure no glass or other debris fell on me and the firefighters cut the door off.
The sound of the metal being snapped and crushed was awful. I have to say that was one of the scariest sounds during the whole situation. There was a pop noise and suddenly my right side was exposed to the cold air.
That was where things got tricky for the emergency crews. They had to move me from the car onto a backboard, while keeping my spine as still as possible. Again, it felt like I was being manhandled as they put the spineboard behind me and slid me out of the car.
Being on the spineboard was the most natural part of the situation for me. Lifeguarding prepared me for being strapped to one.
When strapped onto a board, you cannot move at all. It is another unnerving experience, if you are not used to it. People are prodding you and touching you, trying to get the straps on properly so you won’t fall off the board and you can’t move.
I was on the ground for what felt like a very long time before I was finally strapped in and hauled to the ambulance.
Once in the ambulance, the stretcher was clicked into place and we drove off. I know people say this all the time, but you feel every little bump in the back of that thing. We didn’t go that far, only out to the parking lot, but that was far enough.
After experiencing being a crash victim, it cemented my opinion that I never want to be in a car crash.
I’m already the pain in the butt in my family. If anyone drinks even one drink, I insist someone who has not been drinking should drive. If I see or hear about friends or family members texting and driving, I’ll be the first one to lecture them.
It drives them crazy, but it is better to be proactive than be completely out of control because the moment you get into that car with someone who has been drinking or is paying more attention to their phone than the road, you have given them your control. And that might be the last thing you ever do.