A 20-year-old Fredonia State College student's brush with death after a recent binge drinking incident has prompted a plea from the college's president for changes in attitudes about alcohol consumption.
The student has since been released from Brooks Memorial Hospital in Dunkirk and has returned to class, college officials said. "Without a change in student attitudes and behaviors toward alcohol, we will eventually have a tragedy on this campus," Dennis L. Hefner, president of the college, wrote in a letter to the college community.
Campus officials said about eight to 10 students at the college are rushed to the hospital each semester for excessive alcohol consumption, but this case, which occurred Sept. 17, was particularly dangerous.
The blood-alcohol content of the student, whose identity was withheld, had registered in the "fatal range," officials said.
After the student had been taken to the hospital, campus medical personnel made repeated calls to the college asking for information on how to reach the student's parents, leading college officials to believe the student might need to be placed on a respirator, Hefner explained.
"Severe alcohol poisoning causes the brain to begin shutting down specific functions, including breathing and can result in permanent brain damage. As a result, in critical situations, physicians normally consult with a patient's family before placing them on a respirator," Hefner said.
"The doctor's strong concern about reaching the parents, who had yet to be located, was an exceedingly bad sign," he said.
About midnight Sept. 17, the student's condition began to stabilize. "The vital signs finally stopped deteriorating, and the blood alcohol level began dropping," Hefner said, adding that the student is lucky to be alive.
Hefner met with several of the student's friends that night and said he discussed actions they had taken to save their friend.
"By immediately seeking help, and not just allowing the student to sleep it off, they had provided a chance for life," he said. "If anyone had hesitated -- friends, residence director, university police, ambulance attendants, emergency physician -- the student would have died," the college president said.
In sending the letter detailing the near fatality, Hefner reminded students, parents and staff members there are a number of services and activities available to divert students from consuming alcohol.
They include counseling, alcohol awareness sessions, fitness and wellness centers, midnight basketball and a 24-hour computer lab.
"Most important," Hefner wrote, "students, please think about the dangers associated with alcohol. You are the only ones who can control your actions. We want you to have long, productive and fulfilling lives."