It’s not a mystery that college kids go to parties, drink fruity jungle juice, and do keg stands. What is more concerning is how many of those kids might let their friend “sleep off” a fall or landing on their side. As clinicians, we know this can be dangerous. Anyone under the influence of one too many rum and sodas does not have great insight and may not realize that falling from a height could lead to devastating injuries. This happens cringingly often, but does not have the spotlight or common knowledge amongst teenagers and early 20-somethings. Until now.
Rachael Fiege was your typical Indiana girl. She was outgoing and a friend to many. She had been a good student and star soccer player during high school. On her second night of college at IU, she and her friends went to their first college party. They knew to stay together and look out for each other throughout the night. She and her girlfriends were having a great time until she tumbled down a flight of stairs. Able to shake it off, Rachael’s friends encouraged her to lie down on the couch, checking on her a few times during the party. It wasn’t until the morning they realized she was no longer breathing. Her mother and critical care physician, Dr. Angie Fiege received the worst possible phone call any parent could ever hear. Her beautiful, vibrant daughter had died of an intracranial hemorrhage.
Rachael’s legacy has led to an important, expanding program, Rachael’s First Week (RFW). Angie started this with donations left in her daughter’s name, initially creating the program to inform high school seniors and college students in a non-confrontational that it’s ok to call 911 if you’re worried about a friend. Thanks to the Lifeline Law, if you’re under 21 and intoxicated and need to go to the hospital, you can dial 911 for you or your friend…and not see the inside of a jail cell. Angie started off small, gathering a few of Rachael’s friends and emergency medicine residents and students from IU, and went to her high school to have the first ever session. Now, RFW has reached out to thousands of high school and college students including other schools around Indianapolis, Indiana University, Marion University, and Butler University. The message is always well received.
“ Rachael’s First Week challenges young men and women to think about the choices they make, and always look out for each other, even strangers. The program encourages a change in culture from approaching college with risk-taking behaviors to one of fun using common sense and caring for friends and strangers alike.”
The format allows for anonymous questions to be sent in via text messaging, which really allows for candid discussion. They also cover drug use and suicide through text polling, and often there’s as many as one third of the students who have considered suicide, which is eye opening and heart breaking. Through the program, they provide resources and let the students know what to do in these tricky situations. Lives have already been saved, and more will be in the future. Already, there are six events scheduled for the spring. If you are interested in helping, donating, or for more information please go to rachaelsfirstweek.com.
Numerous opportunities are coming up to volunteer with RWF February through May 2018.
By Ashley Satorius-Rutz, MD Emergency Medicine 2nd year resident