On September 20, 2009 my freshman son was taken by fraternity brothers to the local emergency room where he stopped breathing and was placed on a respirator for the next 24 hours. His diagnosis was alcohol poisoning with a blood alcohol level in excess of .47. Our son is alive today because one of his brothers was running late and returned to the house to find him unresponsive on the floor and called for two others to assist in getting him to the hospital.
My message to Phi Delta Theta and all fraternity men is direct and simple. No man’s life is worth the risk. Every man that comes into your chapter is precious to someone. Each one is someone’s son, brother, grandson, nephew or uncle. When they come to your chapter you have no idea of the knowledge or experience they have with alcohol. I plead that every chapter take care to assure no family has to go through what we did on that day in 2009 and given the situation, we had a very positive outcome, our son is alive.
In order to prevent another incident like our son’s or the others that ended up in a death, a number of things have to change. I am not naïve enough to believe that fraternities will stop drinking so here are my suggestions.
Leadership should be two deep. By this I mean that any decision made in planning, preparing for and carrying out events, even spontaneous ones, should be made by at least two leaders. Two heads are better than one and by allowing two people to weigh in on a decision there is a check and balance. Anticipate the unexpected, no one set out for this to happen.
Alcohol impairs judgment and the insidious thing is you don’t feel you are impaired. My son and the people he was with did not recognize how serious things were. It took someone from outside of the situation who had not been drinking to see it. I recommend that every event have at least one person appointed who has the job of wing man, who stays alert and clear and watches for unanticipated consequences.
Members should work on changing the culture of their chapter to focus on building brotherhood and supporting one another, rather than drinking. Leaders should lead by example. Avoid group think and peer pressure and be aware the center in the brain that controls decision making is not fully developed until age 25.
We love our son more than life itself. I have often said that if he had died someone would have to remind me to breathe, every breath, everyday, possibly for years. There is no need for any parent to have to fear, we should know our sons are safe in the care of the brotherhood of their fraternity.
Cindy Trupka shares her personal story to convey the passion she has about the importance of protecting the well being and safety of all children, even those who are adults. She is the mother of three; a daughter Brittany Winnike, and two sons A. Tristan Trupka and Brennan J. Trupka. Our family is well aware that the outcome for Brennan could have been far worse and of the precious gift we have been given of his continued life. It is this gift that supports her passion to share their story. Cindy believes one incident averted or one life saved will be worth the effort.