Nanette Wilbern Hausman

FROM DEVASTATION TO DIFFERENCE

In the wake of an unimaginable tragedy, Nanette Hausman is committed to enhancing college safety and student emergency medical care.

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Lauren LoFrisco
Bruce Taub
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8 Minutes

02.16.2021

It was early in the fall of 2018 and Corey Hausman was a freshman still settling into his dream school – CU Boulder.  His two older brothers had just helped him move into his dorm a few weeks prior.  Corey could not have been happier.  He was going on hikes, throwing the Frisbee on the quad with new friends, and playing his guitar all night with his roommate.  He had just gotten his first paper graded, and had called home with the good news.  Back home, his family was enjoying a relaxing Tuesday evening, cooking dinner and watching TV.  Everything seemed normal, and then the phone rang.

Corey was being treated at a local medical facility, he had fallen from his skateboard while traveling across campus.  Corey died on September, 12, 2018, just eight hours after the fall and fifteen days into his freshman year. Corey’s accident occurred on a steep and narrowing pathway on the way to his friend's dorm.  His was the third campus death of the new semester.  

In the wake of this unfathomable tragedy, the family sought to understand how such a thing could have occurred, and naturally turned to the treating hospital and university officials for answers. The responses were kind but unsatisfying, prompting new questions and concerns.  For Corey’s mom, Nanette Hausman, it became clear that college safety accountability and emergency care for students at CU, and perhaps at many other universities, could be greatly improved.  From this came the inspiration for College 911.net™, which aims to help prepare college students for medical emergencies while improving college safety.

“It is unbelievable to think that Corey’s story on earth ended so abruptly” his family wrote in an obituary for the Connecticut news outlet 06880.  “He was the happiest person on earth and he was able to bring his joy to others.”

We sat down recently with Nanette to learn more about College911.net™, its mission and its current work.


Corey Bernard Hausman

Interview

You personally experienced a parent’s worst nightmare with the loss of your son, Corey.  Tell us about your journey, from processing this unimaginable tragedy to creating College911.net™.

Losing my child IS devastating. Life will never be as I had envisioned it would be before Corey’s passing. Everyday I try to nurture our family dynamic to be as good as it can be. The words of a neighbor reflecting on the loss of his beloved wife to cancer a few years back serve as an inspiration, “life will never be the same without Lynn, but it doesn't mean it can’t be good again”. 

Each member of our family is living with the loss in a different way, you never get over it.  From our circumstance, I can attest that being blind-sided with devastation (sudden loss of a young family member) brings out a primal reaction that is unique and unpredictable. For me, investigating and making change has taken over my being.    

Amidst our mourning, our family had questions that needed answers. How could this have happened to our Corey?  and to us? We did research. People don’t die from falling off skateboards, especially if there was not a car involved. Like many other students, he was traveling on wheels, on a sidewalk, on campus. Relatively safe you would think?  An internet search shows very few reports, if any, of fatal incidents like Corey’s. Nothing added up.

The university's lack of advocacy and and local medical team’s level of responsiveness during and since this crisis left us feeling abandoned and incomplete. Corey’s accident and death were swept under the rug and shields of self-protection were raised. It took time and tenacity but eventually we got our answers, just through different channels.         

Our discoveries we made became the foundation of the College911.net™ Initiative. We learned that things we didn't even think about when sending Corey off to college ended up impacting us in the worst possible way. It became blindingly clear that we could contribute to fixing a broken system. A system that allows many serious accidents and student deaths to go publicly unaccounted for and may not prioritize investment in certain types of college safety. Also, there is a personal burning desire to add available 911 medical care to everyone's college checklist.  

Paying tribute to Corey and potentially sparing other families enduring the  pain like ours is the momentum which pushes 911 forward every day. It is now a matter of principle to make change.

When something happens that we can’t control, we gravitate towards something we can.

As College911.net™ has evolved, I can attest that jumping in to do something tangible – something that can be controlled - is part of my coping mechanism.  When something happens that we can’t control, some of us gravitate towards something we can.  For me, this is especially true since I sincerely believe I can  help others to avoid what my family lives with everyday .

By dissecting what happened and launching College911.net™, I have come to understand the college safety reporting and healthcare systems that failed us which significantly contributed to our tragic loss.  Gathering strength and building unity within a new community committed to making necessary change for improving these systems has given me a meaningful and positive purpose.   

What are the national statistics for college related accidents and deaths?

Stunningly, these statistics are not publicly reported so it is likely they are not even tracked. Also surprising, preventable accidents are consistently forecasted to be the leading cause of student death. The periodic surveys and articles published by the Higher Ed community on college student mortality focus predominantly on student behavior (ex. alcohol consumption) without equal emphasis upon the types of accidents (pedestrian, falls, motor vehicle). The student behavior contributing to accidents (ex. alcohol related) is subliminally linked to causality. Publicly reporting data on all accidents both in number and type should impact how the college experience can be made safer while taking into account the realities of student behavior.   

Tell me about the issues that College911.net™ aims to resolve and the changes you hope will result?

College911.net™ hopes to reduce the college student accident and death count by fixing a broken reporting and accountability system. Our current reporting enables accidents, sometimes fatal, to be left unaccounted for from the public’s view of, or study of, college safety. 911’s mission is to “save lives through improving campus safety and creating a bridge between colleges and top-notch 911 medical care”. If successful, the mission’s outcomes will expand the public’s view of college safety, incentivize more public health investigation and investment in all critical aspects of safety, and encourage universities to adopt protocols to ensure students have access to the best possible 911 medical care.

Over the last few weeks our Reform College Safety Petition has been in circulation. It seeks to enact legislation requiring that colleges publicly report all serious accidents (requiring a 911 response) and student deaths on or near campuses, while protecting student and family privacy; that they adopt protocols to ensure students have access to the best possible emergency care (Trauma Level 1); that they post on their websites the college-associated and other relevant health facilities providing emergency medical services to students in response to 911 calls, and if those facilities are not Trauma-1, then the location of the nearest Trauma-1 facility. Our collective petition signatures call for the reforms necessary to save lives and make colleges safer.

While the pursuit of reporting reform is underway, College911.net™ is currently reaching-out to students and their families during the college selection process and just before student-drop-off at the start each semester.  We have created a simple Medical Emergency Checklist that serves as an ideal way to facilitate important discussion, process necessary paperwork, and use technology to make health information more accessible and to help families stay connected during 911 emergencies.


Corey and "the brothers"

How would you advise parents of college students to prepare for independent living and handling emergencies while away from home?

Parents and their children should go through the Medical Emergency Checklist I’ve just described, line by line.

In addition, parents can start asking colleges about 911 care for its students.  If colleges hear that these things matter to their “customers” (their students), it will become a priority.  Certainly, application and acceptance numbers are important to the college's brand and emergency care should be an important component in the selection process.

We are inviting students, parents and community leaders to read, sign and share our reform petition in order to raise public awareness and get the ball rolling for legislative change.  Admittedly, that will take a while, but this is an important first step.

What types of alliances or partnerships would be of value to College911.net™?

Great question!  Since I have started this initiative, there are many new doors that have opened and I am learning a great deal through every new introduction and conversation. 

The top two opportunity groups 911 engaged with immediately were parents and high school guidance departments. Both groups are committed to seeking and distributing information and offering advice and action steps to support their students in making successful transitions to life outside of high school.     

Two more groups that have proven instrumental in moving forward are Rail Against the Danger and Protect Students Abroad. Both are Initiatives launched by families who are committed to making positive change. They also experienced devastation as a result of preventable accidents which occurred while their children were away at college. 

Nonprofits organizations that focus on injury prevention like the US Brain Injury Association could certainly help us to spread the world. Pre-covid, 911 was proactively working to connect with our National Institute of Health, CDC and other public health professionals that can benefit from more complete and evidence based data.These agencies have shifted their focus to the pandemic but engagement will continue when appropriate.     

Another interesting group worth exploring is the Brechner Center for Freedom of Information. This research center at the University of Florida is focused on improving the public’s access to civically essential information. They produced a podcast called “Why Don't We Know” which reveals some of America’s most impenetrable “data deserts.” A very eye-opening podcast..   

What steps can families take to make the college experience safer for students?

They can visit us and join our community College911.net™ and on Facebook.  They can review, sign and share our Reform College Safety Petition.  They can work through the College911.net Medical Emergency Checklist.  They can have important dialog about what to do in case they or their friend needs emergency medical attention.  They can insist on top-notch 911 medical care (Trauma 1) for their son or daughter preparing to leave the nest.  Trauma 1 centers should be “a direct flight.”  

"When I hear that another student at college has passed away from what has been labeled ‘an accident’, I wonder what could have been done to prevent it?  
I am inviting others to join me in my conviction that these events should be counted, examined and prevented whenever possible, rather than being ‘swept under the rug’."