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Shattered Dreams Program Leaves Lasting Impression on Teens

If you ask a teenager about the dangers of texting and driving, drinking and driving, and other reckless behaviors on the road, they’ll tell you all about it – perhaps with an eye-roll or two. They know the risks, and they’ve seen the commercials and billboards – but do any of these messages really hit home?

“Unfortunately, despite the numerous public service campaigns out there, motor vehicle collisions remain a leading cause of death among teens,” said Cary Cain, RN, B.S.N., M.P.H., pediatric trauma prevention coordinator for the Memorial Hermann Texas Trauma Institute. “We wanted to provide an opportunity for high school students to learn about the hazards of distracted driving due to texting, alcohol and drug use, and also provide education on the prevention of those behaviors.”

Enter “Shattered Dreams,” a program that offers high school students the chance to witness first-hand the hazards of distracted driving due to texting and substance use. Memorial Hermann Texas Trauma Institute works with local high schools to coordinate these events. The program’s main feature is an elaborate mock traffic accident set up on high school property. Student actors volunteering with the program – each made up with stage-blood and prosthetics to portray various injuries – are placed around a wrecked car donated by a local wrecker service. A Memorial Hermann Life Flight® helicopter is flown in for the critically injured. And there is always a story behind the scene: After a night of partying, high-school students are involved in a bad motor vehicle collision. One is ejected from the vehicle and dies. Another becomes paralyzed from the waist down. Another is led off in handcuffs by local law enforcement, facing charges of manslaughter. There is even a mock memorial service the next day.

“We want to make it as real as possible,” Cain said. “It’s not about scaring the students, but rather having them witness what could really happen to themselves or their loved ones. Ultimately, we want them to understand that these tragedies can be prevented.”

This year, Memorial Hermann worked with four different high schools in the Greater Houston area.

“Shattered Dreams is usually scheduled so that it coincides with the school’s prom and graduation, since those are times that teens may be more apt to practice risky driving behavior,” Cain added.

As part of the program, students and staff members from the various high schools visit the Memorial Hermann-TMC Campus to participate in interactive education and tours of the hospital’s trauma facilities.

“The hospital component really works to make this program an educational experience,” said Kyler Godwin, Ph.D., M.P.H., adult trauma prevention coordinator at Memorial Hermann Texas Trauma Institute. “We have one of our trauma surgeons speak and we talk about how to make smart choices. Our goal is that these teens will start planning ahead so they don’t find themselves in a bad situation. We want them to have the education they need to make smart choices so that they always get home safely.”

Collaborative effort

The Shattered Dreams program is a collaborative effort between the Memorial Hermann Texas Trauma Institute and numerous community members including parents, high schools, EMS personnel, local police stations and funeral homes. The Trauma Prevention department would like to thank the nurses, physicians, EMTs, administrators and chaplains involved for going above and beyond in their contributions to the program – it would not be possible without the support of Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center’s trauma services and the valuable volunteers who gave up their time to make a difference in the lives of these high school students.

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