December 12, 2003

Seniors pass critical hands-on final with flying colors

by Paula M. Davenport

Seniors pass critical hands-on final with flying colors

By Paula M. Davenport

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- On a drizzly, bone-chilling day in early December, a burning building -- filled with severely wounded occupants -- stood between two college seniors and the diplomas they yearned to earn nine days later at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

Rest assured, things weren't as bad as they seemed.

It was all a set-up, a finely orchestrated mock disaster brimming with the kind of chaos rescuers responding to a meth lab explosion might find.

For a dozen upperclassmen, including athletic training majors and seniors Edward J. "Jay " Sedory ofTucson, Ariz., and Janelle M. Coan of Champaign, this was a hands-on final to test a semester's worth of life-saving techniques covered in an advanced health education course.

Outside the run-down rural home that doubled as the make-believe drug den, the air bristled with anticipation.

Without warning, an "explosion" ripped through the building. Area firefighters doused the house and the University's SWAT team stormed in to secure the site and disable any bubblers, as the drug makers are known.

Sedory and Coan, who comprised two-thirds of the Delta student rescue squad, slipped on white jumpsuits, eye and breathing protection and wondered aloud how well they'd perform the wide range of lifesaving techniques their "victims" might need.

Meanwhile, walkie-talkies squawked and the ring of gunshots drifted outdoors.

Delta team raced inside to find numerous victims realistically made up to look like they'd sustained everything from bloody gunshot wounds to gruesome, life-threatening cuts, burns and in one case, a severed arm.

"It was just craziness," Sedory said. "I looked for who was hurt the most. I wasn't scared or anything. I was very confident. My adrenaline was pumping. I was kind of worried I might forget something, but with all the great teaching and all the practice we got, it kind of seemed natural and I went with the flow."

Sedory and his team called for cervical collars, spine boards and the oxygen kit. Quicker than you could say 911 they stopped one victim's bleeding, monitored his breathing and stabilized him for chopper transport.

The seniors agree there's no substitute for this kind of field experience. Previous classes have encountered mock plane crashes, school bus accidents and a school shooting.

"You can read anything in a book and practice it in class. But it really helps to be actually out helping somebody, going through the skills you've been 


Added Sedory: "In a real emergency people are going to be screaming, hurt and upset. In the classroom you practice on your friends who are normal and fine. Practicing these skills in this sort of situation is going to make it a whole lot easier when it really does happen."

Exercises like this exemplify why SIUC's athletic training program is considered one of the nation's finest, the seniors said. The specialization is housed in the College of Education and Human Services.

Coan and Sedory agree it's what drew them to SIU's Carbondale campus. Promoting excellence in undergraduate academics is among the aspirations of Southern at 150, the blueprint for the University's development by the time it marks its 150th anniversary in 2019.

Though Coan grew up in the same town that houses the University of Illinois, she chose to study at Southern.

Sedory transferred in after studying for two years at the University of Arizona.

"I think it's the best decision I've ever made personally. I'm graduating with multiple honors. I've done very well here and graduating will be a really big accomplishment for me and my family," said Sedory, his voice slightly muffled by his blue breathing mask.

The students breathed deep sighs of relief when they heard the EMT who evaluated them praised their performances.

" I gave them three stars. The first thing they did was their ABC's," said EMT Clem Jensen, also a Dowell firefighter and assistant to the chief.

"I mean they were in there, checking the victim's airway, breathing and circulation. They recognized they needed supplies and called for them. And they worked their way through the diagnosis checking for wounds, burns, breaks, shock and spinal injuries.

"They did a great job all the way through," Jensen said.

These drills have become an annual test for an advanced first aid class taught by Peggy A. Wilken, a clinical assistant professor of health education at SIUC.

Having successfully met Wilken's complicated assessment, the seniors said, will better prepare them for any real emergencies that may come their way and will make Saturday's (Dec. 13) commencement ceremony especially poignant.