At a time when teachers and education in general are continually being negatively portrayed, I feel it my duty to let the citizens of Washington County be informed of the jewel that sits atop State Route 676 - The Washington County Career Center. This institution does far more than educate students for the present; it also provides training for the future.
I was returning home from Georgia with my sister and granddaughter, Alexis, who had just completed her junior year in the Patient Health Care program at the Career Center. About 100 yards in front of us, a SUV was passed on the right side causing the driver to suddenly lose control and flip over. A young girl was ejected from the vehicle. The car continued to slide across the highway upside down spewing items everywhere.
I immediately slowed down and as I was doing so my granddaughter nervously stated that she had to stop and help. While my sister dialed 911, Alexis and I went towards the young lady lying on the road. I feared she was dead and told my granddaughter to stay back. She didn't. A man from another vehicle came running with a blanket. I could see the girl was alive and Alexis began to ask her questions and tried to calm the 16-year-old. She could move an arm but nothing else.
I went to the opposite side of the car. The mother crawled through the passenger window and started screaming for her daughter. The mother was covered in blood and asked if anyone was medically certified. Alexis told the mother she was in training for the past year. She also said the mother should not move anyone and should sit quietly until the paramedics arrived. My sister stayed beside the mother and the 16-year-old.
Two babies (3- and 4-year-olds) crawled out of the back window. A grandmother, who was also the driver, was unable to disengage the seatbelt. She was hanging upside down. The little boy, 4, grabbed my leg. He had abrasions and a gash with glass protruding from the back of his head. Lex ran to my car and retrieved bottles of water to clean wounds. The little girl, 3, was screaming and wanted held. I picked her up and went to the next person crawling through the back window. I observed she had Downs Syndrome and asked her name and age (21). She was crying and complaining of her stomach hurting. She had urinated on herself but thought it was blood. She began to panic. I told her to stay seated and that I saw no blood only urine. Alexis reassured her by asking her to look at the road-wet but no blood.
I heard a siren and said a prayer of thanks as I looked up to see a WV State Trooper come to my side of the car. He asked if everyone besides the driver was able to get out. I told him I didn't know how many people were in the vehicle. The ambulances arrived and paramedics started taking over.
Alexis and I remained with the two small children. The little boy told Lex he had to "pee" and she told him it was OK to do it right there by the side of the road. He laughed a little. I tried to keep the little girl from looking at the vehicle and all the carnage. I asked her where she was going. She told me it was her daddy's birthday and they were going to his party. I asked her if she wanted to practice singing "Happy Birthday." Lex and I continued to keep the little ones occupied and as calm as possible. The paramedics put neck braces on both children and this scared the girl so I talked about necklaces; anything to distract her. When the paramedics tried to put her on the board, her eyes widened with fear and she began to scream. She wanted me to go with her. I told the paramedic I was not part of the family. Lex saw the girl's Dora backpack inside the car and grabbed it through the shattered window. I placed it on the board with the child. Lex also found the boy's pack and gave it to him. My sister was busy picking up bits and pieces; trying to find a blue bag with the boy's asthma inhaler and the Downs Syndrome woman's medication.
The grandmother was cut down and pulled from the vehicle. The teen was stabilized but possibly paralyzed. The mother appeared to have only scrapes and small cuts. The little boy had a head wound that required a few stitches. The little girl and the 21-year-old were traumatized but nothing physical beyond seatbelt marks and some abrasions. All were boarded into ambulances and whisked away.
Lex, my sister and I had a long group hug and tears flowed. We had blood on our clothes and were shaking. We held on to each other as we walked back to my car. Alexis grabbed the hand sanitizer and told us to use it. We drove to the first travel center and Alexis told us how we needed to wash everything thoroughly with soap and water-even our wrists. I bagged my bloody shirt and disposed of it.
For the next 200 miles, all Alexis could talk about was the lessons she had learned from Emma Otstot, Becky Jones and Karolyn Schafer (instructors and nurses at the Career Center). She was so very proud to know that in an emergency she could use her training. Alexis began making plans for her senior project which would have to do with proper seatbelt usage or maybe how to help children in an emergency; the ideas flowed endlessly. She verbally listed the items she always needed to have with her when she traveled-gloves, gauze, plastic mouth piece, sanitizer, sterile water.
I am so very proud of Alexis and the skills she applied in a horrific emergency situation. She was nervous but never hesitated. I am proud to be a part of a profession that prepares for more than just a diploma. I am a teacher at the Washington County Career Center and every year we send young adults directly into their chosen career fields aptly qualified. Washington Countians, you should be proud, as well, of having a facility in your midst that provides such wonderful opportunities to our children.
Alexis is more eager than ever to go back her senior year and gain more skills. She wants to further her knowledge in the medical profession after high school. In her words: It is so cool to know I can do what is needed in an emergency. I think I will always cry after it is over, but I can do it!
On June 1, 2013, Alexis was more than just a student in training. She was a paraprofessional in action! Thank you, Washington County Career Center.
Kaye Spiker lives in Marietta.