Trauma Center

‘Every 15 Minutes’ Opens Their Eyes

Jesse Bethel High School students Josh McClendon, 17, and Rebekah Richardson, 19, were headed to a prom one moment and being taken via helicopter and ground ambulance to the NorthBay Medical Center Trauma Center the next.

Luckily, the April 14 drama wasn't real. It was part of a program designed to drive home the message that drinking and driving don't mix.

NorthBay Healthcare's trauma team participated in the scenario as part of the “Every 15 Minutes” program, which involved multiple emergency response agencies and professionals. Students volunteered to play the roles of the victims.

NorthBay had participated in the program in the past with Rio Vista High School but this was the first time a Vallejo school was involved.

About a dozen NorthBay Emergency Department employees played a key role in the program, as they cared for the two mock crash victims.

The trauma team worked the scenario as if it were real, scurrying around Josh's body as they checked his pulse, started chest compressions and checked vital signs. The mock response included a pretend effort to insert a chest tube for a collapsed lung and eventually the decision to declare the patient dead.

“Call the family,” someone announced to the suddenly silent team.

But there was no time to rest. They had just covered the student's body with a sheet, when Richardson's ambulance arrived.

“I can't feel my legs,” Rebekah, a student, sobbed, as neurosurgeon Edie Zusman, M.D., and trauma surgeon Pete Zopfi, D.O., asked her questions about her injuries. The student played her role so well that even Dr. Zusman would tell her later that she should consider a career in acting.

Even though the scenario was a drill, both doctors said it evoked real-life reactions for the medical team.

Students said the experience “felt real” for them at times, too.

“It felt so real when everything was happening,” Rebekah said. “I was actually getting dizzy in the ambulance. It hit me.”

For students at Jesse Bethel, the program continued the next day with a mock funeral and eulogies while the victims stayed out of school as if they had actually been hurt or killed in a collision.