Calling on students: Make the Call

September 25, 2012  


WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Purdue University students and staff are rolling out a new online video, "Make the Call," to explain alcohol poisoning and urge everyone to call for help when someone is in a life-threatening situation after drinking.

The video also explains the Indiana Lifeline law and Purdue medical amnesty policy, both designed to protect individuals from legal or disciplinary action when they call for help.

"The Indiana Lifeline law and Purdue's medical amnesty policy were set in place by students for students," said Joseph Rust, president of Purdue Student Government. "Students' well-being comes first, and that's what this video is conveying. It's telling students 'Make the call. Get help. Save a life.'"

The video, available at http://www.purdue.edu/makethecall, depicts a student who has alcohol poisoning and how his friends make the decision to call for help. It includes commentary from Dana Wislocki, a Purdue paramedic, and Jeffery Stefancic, the associate dean of students in the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities. 

"Previous data showed the primary way that students responded to alcohol poisoning was to monitor a person who had passed out," said Tammy Loew, health advocacy coordinator for the Student Wellness Office. "This was disconcerting because a person's blood alcohol concentration can continue to rise even while he or she is passed out. Even after a person stops drinking, alcohol in the stomach and intestine continues to enter the bloodstream and circulate throughout the body. It is dangerous to assume the person will be fine by sleeping it off.

"The most important response is to make the call and get the victim medical attention. Students also needed to know that the university and legal system will support their decision to get medical attention."

Purdue Fire Chief Kevin Ply, whose paramedics respond to calls for help, says critical signs of alcohol poisoning include any of the following:

* Person is unconscious or semiconscious and cannot be awakened

* Cold, moist, pale skin

* Slow, shallow breathing

* Vomiting while "sleeping" or passed out, and not waking up after vomiting

If alcohol poisoning goes untreated, Ply says, it can result in several life-threatening situations, such as:

* Victim chokes on his or her own vomit

* Breathing slows, becomes irregular or stops

* Heart beats irregularly or stops

* Hypothermia (low body temperature)

* Hypoglycemia (too little blood sugar) leads to seizures

Untreated severe dehydration from vomiting can cause seizures, permanent brain damage or death.

Even if the victim lives, an alcohol overdose can lead to irreversible brain damage. Rapid binge drinking is especially dangerous because the victim can ingest a fatal dose before becoming unconscious.

"This video is a collaborative effort involving several campus partners, including students," Loew said. "We're pleased that the information is now readily available in one location, and we hope that student groups of all sorts watch it and spread the word.

"While we hope they never need it, students will find the information they need to save a life."

Writer: Jeanne Norberg, 765-494-2084, jnorberg@purdue.edu

Sources: Tammy Loew, 765-496-6780, tfloew@purdue.edu

Joseph Rust, 765-494-7201, rust@purdue.edu

Kevin Ply, 765-494-6919, kmply@purdue.edu

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