DERRY - Julie Sequeira made her way to her final EMT class yesterday at Pinkerton Academy expecting an end-of-school pizza party.
Instead, she walked into a disaster zone -- staged by class instructor Ed Gannon, a send-off for his seniors that would test everything they'd learned about blood, guts and triage.
"I knew there was going to be some kind of surprise, but I was thinking party, not this," said Sequeira, referring to the fake blood-spattered classroom where 10 of her peers were feigning flesh wounds.
"All we were told was that a senior found out she wasn't graduating and lost it -- that she went on a rampage," said Sequeira. "Then she hung herself. It was better than a party."
Spoken like a true Health Occupations Student of America -- that's what Sequeira and her peers are, future EMTs and emergency health professionals, who spent their last semester as seniors learning all about how to be first responders, including a required stint riding along with Derry EMTs.
During yesterday's exercise, some students were put in charge while others had to carry out orders with the goal of figuring who needed what faster than the rest.
Molly McEachern felt flustered when she first stepped into the chaos.
"I was supposed to be directing others, but I wasn't sure where to start. Mr. Ed told me to do myself a favor and back up from the situation. If you get involved with every person in need, you feel overwhelmed, and he was right. Once I stepped back, everything I'd learned just started to kick in," McEachern said.
Dan McPherson was in McEachern's group, and was dealing with Kelsey Richardson's messy flesh wound while trying to subdue her frantic injured friend, played by Cierra Small, who was purposely annoying. Someone finally had the idea to sedate Small so that they could get back to treating the more seriously injured patient.
"I felt stressed, but it was definitely a great experience. On a scale of 1 to 10, it was 11 or 12," said McPherson, who recently passed his agility test with the Alton Fire Department and will live there while attending the Lakes Region Community College Fire Science program this fall.