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Reality Touches Down At El Portal School
An emergency room nurse, traveling the country to help students learn how to make smart, potentially life-saving decisions, brought the effort to El Portal Middle School on Friday.

Linda Dutil, RN, is from Maine but said the message she delivers is the same across the country: watch out for each other and don't take unnecessary chances.

Her visit was sponsored locally by Delta Sierra Beverage Company and Dutil engaged the students at El Portal Middle School in some lively discussion, detailing some facts and figures about life in the ER and some of the cases she has seen of alcohol poisoning, drug overdoses and more.

"I flew six hours to come to your school to bring you some good information," she said. "I'm not here to lecture, not here to tell you what to do. It is your choice. Life is all about choices."

She said she hopes the information she provided, however, was incentive for the pre-teens and teens to make good choices in the future.

Through photos, she was able to show the chilling effects of drug abuse, from a woman of 30 looking easily 20 years older, on to losing most of her teeth by the time she was 40.

Dutil also used student volunteers to simulate a couple of different scenarios, including having to pump a stomach and use liquid charcoal (not actually used on the student) to clean out toxins, to having other students try to keep balloons afloat, signifying the various aspects of their lives and how difficult it is to keep everything together when drugs and alcohol enter the mix.

Dutil also said students need to watch out for each other and never be afraid to get help if they see a friend in trouble.

"You have the power to save your friend's life," she said.

Prescription medications are very often easily accessible but she warned about the dangers of taking pills not intended for you. Side effects can range from mild to severe, but she said it's never safe to take something not prescribed to you by a doctor.

"Make good choices," Dutil told the students. "Do whatever it is you need to do to stay safe."