November 28, 2007

Mock disaster will test students' knowledge

by K.C. Jaehnig


CARBONDALE, Ill. — Only Peggy A. Wilken could get excited about an open, sucking chest wound.

"We're going to have some really good pictures that day," she said with enthusiasm, as she described the mangled arm, evisceration and gouged-out eye that her students also will have to evaluate as part of their final exam.

Media Advisory

Reporters are welcome at the disaster drill, which will take place from 9:30 to 11 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 6, across the road from the University's Swine Center on Union Hill Road.

Wilken, a clinical assistant professor for Southern Illinois University Carbondale's Department of Health Education and Recreation, teaches a course for "first responders," those hardy souls who show up at the scene of accidents and disasters to help treat the wounded.

She tries to make the class final, a mock disaster, as true to life and as harrowing as possible. Ambulances, both air-and land-based, take part, as do at least one fire department, the SIUC police and a representative from the University's Center for Environmental Health and Safety.

And dealing with the victims' various gashes, slashes and burns is not for the squeamish. What the make-up experts from SIUC's theater department can't mimic, Wilken supplies with store-bought "injuries" purchased from Image Perspectives, a Nevada company specializing in "moulage," the manufacture of simulated, realistic wounds that can be made to measure.

"We've got some good stuff coming up!" Wilken said.

This year's event, set to run from 9:30 to 11 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 6, across the road from the University's Swine Center on Union Hill Road, features farm-related injuries caused by equipment, animals, chemicals and a fall from a grain bin. It's the first time the mock disaster teams have focused on this area.

"There are a lot of small farms in Southern Illinois," said Wilken, who grew up on a small farm herself.

"The age of the farmers is rising. They don't see as well, they don't hear as well, and they're usually working two jobs to supplement the household income. When you work all day and farm all night, when you're tired and in a hurry, that's when you get hurt."

The drill also will point the way toward an Illinois farm medic program now under development. The program involves the Iowa and Illinois public health departments and various state health-related organizations, including the SIU School of Medicine, the University of Illinois, Wilken's own department and various other agencies.

Agricultural occupational health training will take place over six days next May and June and will cover such topics as environmental hazards, behavioral health issues in farm communities, agricultural ergonomics, effects of farm chemicals on health, common respiratory ailments, diseases transmitted to people from animals and the like. Potential students include first responders, emergency medical technicians, paramedics, physician assistants and the like.

"We're developing all the programs and getting the speakers now, but with the mock disaster happening in December, we thought it would be good to make the public aware that we're moving in this direction," Wilken said.

For more information about either the drill or the farm medic training, call or e-mail Wilken at 618/453-2777 or