Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Paramedics bring new meaning to being 'Street Smart'

by Staff Sgt. Katie G. Ward
633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

11/14/2012 - JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va. -- Onlookers were fixated as paramedics strapped the young man to a stretcher, his head in a neck brace. As his vitals began to drop, the technicians tried to stabilize his blood pressure by inserting an IV.

Only a few hours before the IV needle broke his skin, he had been laughing and dancing with friends. He was on leave for the holidays, and his friends threw him a welcome-home party. After a few drinks, he decided to drive to another friend's house - no one stopped him. No one took his keys.

While driving, he read a text message and crossed over the center line. He drove head-on into a car at 45 miles per hour.

As a result of the crash, the young man suffered numerous broken bones, internal bleeding and a spinal injury that left him paralyzed from the neck-down, leaving him to live the rest of his life as a quadriplegic.

This tragic accident was a scene presented by Vince Easevoli and Ronny Garcia, paramedics of the Street Smart program, during one of several safety briefings at both the Jacobs Theater on Fort Eustis, Va., Nov. 7, and the base theater at Langley Air Force Base, Va., Nov. 8. The Street Smart program covered a range of driving-related subjects including seatbelt usage, driver distractions, driving under the influence and driving recklessly, and reached more than 1,450 service members during performances at both locations.

"In fiscal years 2011 and 2012, vehicle incidents claimed the lives of more service members than battlefield injuries," said "Safety Bob" Longworth, the Joint Base Langley-Eustis Chief of Safety.

For first-time attendee Tech. Sgt. Kimberly Young, 633rd Air Base Wing Safety noncommissioned officer in charge, the Street Smart performance was an eye-opening experience.

"I've seen several different defensive driving shows, and I'm also a defensive driving instructor, but to see people who do this in real-life, it was amazing," said Young. "It really hits home. It's really not just statistics, it's what they've actually seen and done."

As part of the presentation, Easevoli and Garcia asked an audience member on stage to participate in a car accident scenario, which included being strapped to a stretcher and put in a neck brace as they explained the step-by-step procedures first responders do after a crash.

For Senior Airman Braxton Ward, 480th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Wing knowledge operations specialist, his experience on stage during the scenario was hard-hitting and effective.

"It's very informative, very straightforward and blunt so you get the big picture of why they do this presentation," said Ward. "We don't think about how simple things can make a lifetime change - it's not worth not wearing a seatbelt."

For Easevoil, 27 years of experience as a firefighter and paramedic led him to find a way to educate people on the consequences of poor driving decisions. In 1988, he founded Stay Alive From Education, or S.A.F.E., which presents the Street Smart program.

"Our approach is different. It shows if you make poor choices, this is what happens," Easevoli said. "Most people don't have a clue what happens to them in a crash or what we as paramedics do to them."

As part of the Street Smart team, Garcia has been a firefighter and paramedic with Tampa, Fla. Fire Rescue for 28 years. He has been a Street Smart presenter since 1999 and hopes that his role in the program will help save lives.

"With this many years of experience, you strive to make a difference in the streets," Garcia said. "You hope to make people think differently in the choices they make. If I can leave here with a sense of 'Wow, we may have saved a life,' - that's why I love doing it."

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