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Ma'am, you are a shining example of human kindness News

March 1, 2012

EMS News in Focus
by Arthur Hsieh

Ma'am, you are a shining example of human kindness

The grace exhibited by the mother of a medic killed by a drunk driver is incredible

By Arthur Hsieh

While we as EMS providers might have differing opinions on all kinds of things, I think we're fairly united on one item: Drunk driving is egregious.

Many, if not most of us, have seen the result of an intoxicated individual using his or her 4000-pound blunt force weapon and attack another individual with it.

Often the results are tragic — a death. A permanent disability.

And almost as often there is irony — the intoxicated assailant walks away with nary a scratch.

It can make any one of us seethe with frustration and anger, while we try to manage the scene in a professional manner. So when one of our own is killed by a drunk driver, it's especially painful, and just seems that much more unfair.

There are two sources of solace to come out of this. First, the grace exhibited by Mr. Bower's mother during the interview, where she expressed no anger toward her son's killer.

Ma'am, you are a shining example of  human kindness. As a parent of grown children, I just don't know if I could ever find that level of peace within myself to forgive. So, thank you for showing the way.

Second, as EMS providers, we have a unique opportunity to reduce the frequency of this avoidable tragedy by timely and effective intervention.

We often see patients who are under the influence of alcohol, but are not seriously injured or ill. Especially if they are young, there is a potential "teachable moment" in the back of your unit where a simple series of questions can sometimes identify a person at risk for harm while intoxicated.

When asked in a nonjudgmental way, it's been shown to reduce the frequency of emergency department visits related to alcohol use.

In addition, as we occupy a position of respect and authority in our communities, we can show our citizens how to reduce the use of alcohol by young teens and adults, and potentially break the chain of events that puts someone behind the wheel while drunk.

We can do something about this. Tell me, what you're doing now — and share it with other readers who want to make a difference in their communities.


About the author

EMS1 Editorial Advisor Art Hsieh, MA, NREMT-P currently teaches at the Public Safety Training Center, Santa Rosa Junior College in the Emergency Care Program. Since 1982, Art has worked as a line medic and chief officer in the private, third service and fire-based EMS. He has directed both primary and EMS continuing education programs. Art is a textbook author, has presented at conferences nationwide, and continues to provide patient care at an EMS service in Northern California. Contact Art at
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Ed Stachura Ed Stachura Thursday, March 01, 2012 7:42:37 PM How about listing the questions? That may help some of us out.
Art Hsieh Art Hsieh Thursday, March 01, 2012 8:01:57 PM Thanks Ed! There are a few screening tools to identify at risk drinking (binge drinking is one example): CAGE - Ask the following questions: C: Have you ever felt you should Cut down on your drinking? A: Have people Annoyed you by criticizing your drinking? (U - driving Under the Influence) G: Have you ever felt bad or Guilty about your drinking? E: Have you ever had a drink first thing in the morning to steady your nerves or to get rid of a hangover (Eye opener)? Answering yes to two or more identifies a high probability of at risk drinking. Another tool is TWEAK: Tolerance: How many drinks can you hold? (Six or more - 2 points) Worried: Have close friends or relatives worried or complained about your drinking in the past year? (Yes = 2 points) Eye openers: Do you sometimes take a drink in the morning when you first get up? (Yes = 1 point) Amnesia: Has a friend or family member ever told you about things you said or did while you were drinking that you could not remember? (Yes = 1 point) [K] Cut down: Do you sometimes feel the need to cut down on your drinking? (Yes = 1 point) If the score is greater than 3, it again points to a significant potential for at risk drinking. Finally, if you are ever in the position where you are with your patient who is slowly realizing the injury is related to the alcohol, don't berate. A simple, "here are the facts, sir" can be enough to have the person make the connection without becoming defensive. Hope this helps. Let me know.

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