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  • Caylie Gnyra

It Can’t Happen To Me’ PresentsSobering Reality To Grade 9s

Mannville-Minburn-Innisfree Family & Community Support Services (M-M-I FCSS) partnered with local emergency services and healthcare agencies to present the It Can’t Happen to Me (ICHTM) Risk Awareness Project to grade 9 students in Mannville on Wednesday, May 8. Photo Caylie Gnyra

In an extraordinary community effort, emergency services and other volunteers worked together with Mannville-Minburn-Innisfree Family & Community Support Services (M-M-I FCSS) to present the It Can’t Happen to Me (ICHTM) Risk Awareness Project to grade 9 students from Innisfree and Mannville on Wednesday, May 8.

With the exception of the COVID lockdown years, M-M-I FCSS has presented this program to grade 9 students since 1998, with the hope of getting youth to think critically about decision-making, the impacts of risk-taking, and the natural consequences of poor choices.

Emergency services agencies and other community organizations presented a mock single-vehicle motor vehicle collision involving a death, a paralyzing injury, and a drunk driver, with the roles played by three of Mannville’s grade 10 and 11 students.

The day began at Mannville School, where students were given ICHTM t-shirts to wear throughout the day to help identify that this valuable project was taking place. Then, teacher and Mannville Fire Department training officer Zane Polishuk led the students outside to a mock scene, where bodies were strewn across and out of a van, and a “driver” stumbled out. Narrating a play-by-play of the peer actors and emergency responders, Polishuk explained the series of steps taken in an emergency response.

He emphasized the importance of knowing your location when making a 911 call. All residents should know their addresses by heart, and rural residents should also know their land locations. Being aware of landmarks and road signs while driving can also help in pinning down locations away from home.

Polishuk continued narrating and descriptively shared details as the emergency responders engaged in their roles on scene, from the fire department arriving on scene, covering the “deceased” body, and cutting the doors off the vehicle, to the EMS stabilizing the traumatically injured passenger and carrying him on a stretcher to the ambulance, and then to the funeral home laying the deceased into a body bag before transporting it to a hearse, the scene ended with the “intoxicated” driver having to blow into a breathalyzer before being handcuffed and led to a RCMP officer’s vehicle.

Polishuk highlighted that responders are seeing more and more incidents caused by texting and driving, emphasizing how important it is to not drive while distracted or allow someone else to be distracted while driving.

While most people think of alcohol when they think of impaired driving, recreational or prescription drugs and not enough sleep can all contribute to being found legally impaired. Students were also warned that carrying a fake ID could result in someone else’s family experiencing the trauma of being told a loved one was critically injured or had died. Students were advised to have SOS contact info added to their phones.

The students then relocated to the Mannville Care Centre, where a room was set up as an emergency trauma room. Nurse Kari Cannon explained the process of intubating a patient, noting that not all doctors at the Vermilion facility are able to conduct this procedure. Cannon emphasized that individuals should always tell the truth to their medical professionals to ensure the safest and most effective care. Doctors and nurses don’t care if you’ve done drugs, they just need to know at the hospital what you’re on, and everything that is said remains confidential unless police formally seek documentation later. To drive home the effect of a reckless driving incident on loved ones, Cannon played the students audio of a mother screaming after learning of the death or life-altering injury of her child.

Following the scene in the emergency room, students visited occupational therapists Sarah King and Bethany Villas in the physiotherapy room, where they were shown various methods for encouraging independence after a traumatic injury. Students were then encouraged to try lifting items off the floor using an extendable gripper while sitting in a wheelchair, transporting themselves from a wheelchair to a bed without using their legs, and dressing without the use of one hand using a special tool.

The group then walked over to the Mannville Fire Hall, where Josephine Nichols presented on paramedics’ roles and the features and limitations of ambulances.

Paramedics Josie, Alison, and Paige commented that sights and sounds from real-life experiences haunt them; however, they have great supports that assist them in dealing with those traumatic experiences.

The students enjoyed a barbecued lunch prepared by the Village of Mannville Council and staff. The students were each challenged to eat with a physical disability that had been assigned to them, such as eating without sight or without the use of their hands. In many cases, students were reliant on the help of others to eat, emphasizing the impact that an incident can have on the people around us.

Following lunch, the students returned to school for a presentation by Cst. J. M. Fortin of the Vermilion RCMP detachment. He highlighted statistics related to driving reaction time and what procedures he followed during the incident scene.

Lived experience presenter Maverick Hann shared his story of how he was able to deal with the effects of PTSD and the impacts on his work, his family, and his recreational activities. Despite doing everything right, he was still affected by the scenes he was exposed to as a firefighter from an early age, and he described how these situations can still have a life-altering effect on a person.

Creech’s Lakeland Funeral Home presented what happens before, during, and after a funeral. Their line on works takes compassion and empathy and knowledge. Offering comfort in a time of need in a compassionate way is a vital part of their role.

Keily Stetson of Alberta Health Services Community Addictions and Mental Health provided a debriefing exercise for students to process the events of the day.

“It takes a community to raise a child,” and M-M-I FCSS believes that community involvement and dedicated partners have been a key factor in the success of this educational day for our youth. “We express our sincere gratitude to everyone who had been a part of making the day a success,” said M-M-I FCSS Director Jannette Riedel and Coordinator Carla Cavanagh.

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