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On my most recent night shift at Penn Presbyterian Medical Center’s emergency department, a call that came in overhead from an emergency medical services team froze me in my tracks. “Trauma alert. A 21-year-old female with injuries from a motor vehicle collision. Significant damage to vehicle. Altered mental status, unstable vitals. Co-passenger ejected. ETA 5-7 minutes.” A minute later, we got another call that the other victim from that crash was also en route with unstable vital signs.

As we gowned up and took our positions in the trauma bay, I could hear the first patient being wheeled in by the paramedics. She was screaming hysterically with slurred speech, “I’m sorry! I’m sorry! Please save her!” The paramedics slid her backboard onto the gurney. As we spoke with her, we all noticed a heavy smell of alcohol on her breath.

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