Archive | April, 2007

Grossmont Healthcare Safety Award Given To Monica Zech

Posted on 27 April 2007 by Monica Zech

News from the Grossmont Healthcare District

The Grossmont Healthcare District (GHD), a public agency that supports health-related community programs and services in San Diego’s East County region, has honored five East County residents with a 2007 Healthcare Hero Award.

The honorees were recognized for their efforts to advance the delivery of quality healthcare by volunteering their time beyond normal job responsibilities, according to Bob Yarris, GHD board member who conceived the awards program and also serves on the board’s Public Relations & Outreach Committee, which coordinates the annual awards program.

“We are proud to honor these unsung healthcare heroes for their inspirational, extraordinary care and selfless dedication who go the extra mile in volunteer service,” said Yarris. “In measurable outcomes, their efforts have improved the quality of life for all East County residents, and for that we are very grateful.”

Among those receiving a Grossmont Healthcare District 2007 Healthcare Hero Award:

*Monica Zech of La Mesa extends her job as public information officer and safety educator for the City of El Cajon with frequent appearances to community groups during her off-hours; nights, weekends and even using her vacation days to lecture in the East County and throughout San Diego County. Monica lectures on injury prevention such as fire safety – traffic safety and disaster preparedness…”safety” is Monica’s passion!

East County residents were invited to submit names of possible award recipients and more than 40 nominations were received, according to Gloria Chadwick, GHD board member who serves as chair of the Public Relations & Outreach Committee.

“We were very impressed with every nominee, which made the selection process difficult and challenging,” Chadwick said. “We are looking forward to next year when we will again ask local residents for additional names of volunteers deserving this highly coveted recognition, as more people become aware of this annual awards program.”

Sponsors of the 2007 awards program included Grossmont Healthcare District, Sycuan Resort, Sharp Grossmont Hospital and SDG&E. Both award recipients and nominees were honored at a luncheon held on April 18, 2007, at Sycuan Resort. Carol LeBeau, KGTV-TV anchor and health reporter, served as emcee at the event.

The Grossmont Healthcare District (GHD), formed in 1952 to build and operate Grossmont Hospital, serves as landlord of the hospital, including ownership of the property and buildings on behalf of local taxpayers. The District is governed by a five-member board of directors, each elected to four-year terms, who represent nearly 500,000 people residing within the District’s 750 square miles in San Diego’s East County. In 1991, the District leased the hospital’s operation to Sharp HealthCare under a 30-year lease that runs through the year 2021. For more information about GHD, visit

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Gory Facts Of Driving DUI – Every 15 Minutes

Posted on 27 April 2007 by Monica Zech

A serious act: Gory details aim to deter students from driving while drunk by
Joshua Palmer
The Times-News, Twin Falls, Idaho
April 27, 2007

Apr. 27 – TWIN FALLS – He was too drunk to walk, let alone drive.

But Marcus Schaal, a senior at Twin Falls High School, didn’t realize his mistake until it was too late.

When he regained consciousness he noticed that Matt Hanchey, who was riding in the passenger seat, had been thrown through the windshield and onto the hood of the car. He was covered in blood and Schaal couldn’t get him to wake up.

When Schaal lumbered out ofhis vehicle he saw two girls sitting motionless inside the car he had slammed into.

It was a nightmare, but fortunately it was only an act.

The act was part of an event Thursday afternoon at Twin Falls High School to remind students about the dangers of driving while under the influence of alcohol.

“Each year we do something called “Every 15 Minutes, “which is recognized all over Idaho and other states to remind us that basically every 15 minutes someone is killed in a drunk-driving accident, ” said Abby McNeley, student body vice president. “But this year we decided to do something different and show students how fast drinking and driving can take someone’s life.”

The scene was acted out by Twin Falls High School seniors as well as Twin Falls police and fire departments. A Life Flight helicopter was even called in to carry away one of the ‘injured’ passengers.

Despite the real-life props andspecial effects, nobody could overlook the gruesome detail of the scene.

“That was intentional because, in a way, we want this to have some shock value,” said Staff Sgt. Dennis Pullin. “Senior graduation is coming up soon, and we hope that they will know how real this can be.”

For some students, the sight of a peer lying ‘dead’ on the hood of a car seemed a little exaggerated, but for others it was an awakening to the dangers of driving while under the influence. However, most students seemed to grasp the significance of the scene when Schaal was handcuffed and driven away in the back of a police car.

“It definitely changed the way I thought about things like this,” said Chelsea Abramowski, a senior at Twin Falls High school. “I think it was really a good experience for us — especially because we will have prom soon and it might change some people’s minds about drinking and driving.”

Times-News writer Joshua Palmer covers education. He can be reached at [email protected] or at (208) 420-0526.

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Marijuana Stronger & More Dangerous

Posted on 25 April 2007 by Monica Zech

U.S. marijuana stronger than ever…

Rise in medical emergencies from what government expert calls ‘Pot 2.0’


Updated: 10:32 a.m. PT April 25, 2007

WASHINGTON – The marijuana being sold across the United States is stronger than ever, which could explain a growing number of medical emergencies that involve the drug, government drug experts Wednesday.

Analysis of seized samples of marijuana and hashish showed that more of the cannabis on the market is of the strongest grade, the White House and National Institute for Drug Abuse said.

They cited data from the University of Mississippi’s Marijuana Potency Project showing the average levels of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, in the products rose from 7 percent in 2003 to 8.5 percent in 2006.

The level had risen steadily from 3.5 percent in 1988.

National Institute on Drug Abuse Director Dr. Nora Volkow fears the problem is not being taken seriously because many adults remember the marijuana of their youth as harmless.

“It’s really not the same type of marijuana,” Volkow said in a telephone interview.

“This could explain why there has been an increase in the number of medical emergencies involving marijuana.”

The pharmacy department at Mississippi has compiled data on 59,369 samples of cannabis, 1,225 hashish samples, and 443 hash oil samples confiscated since 1975. “The highest concentration of (THC) found in a cannabis (marijuana) sample is 33.12 percent from Oregon State Police,” the report reads.

‘This is Pot 2.0’ – Hashish and hash oil concentrations are far higher, as they consist of processed plant product.

“Researchers and treatment experts have argued for some time that today’s more powerful marijuana has more harmful effects on users. This report underscores that we are no longer talking about the drug of the 1960s and 1970s — this is Pot 2.0,” John Walters, director of National Drug Control Policy, said in a statement.

Volkow said demand has driven growers to cultivate the stronger stuff. “It is the market,” she said. “Like in the market you favor the best tomatoes. When people buy marijuana, they don’t want a weak cigarette.”

Volkow’s institute has been studying the effects of cannabis, whose active ingredients are very similar to important brain chemicals called endogenous cannabinoids.

“It clearly is addictive,” she said.

If children and adolescents use marijuana, it could affect their still-developing brains, she said.

The report said more than 60 percent of teens receiving treatment for drug abuse or dependence report marijuana as their primary drug of abuse.

“Although the overall number of young people using marijuana has declined in recent years, there is still reason for great concern, particularly since roughly 60 percent of first-time marijuana users are under 18 years old,” Volkow said.

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health 4.1 million Americans, or 1.7 percent of the population, report they use marijuana.

2007 Reuters

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San Ysidro McDonald Massacre – A Birdseye View

Posted on 15 April 2007 by Monica Zech

My thoughts…remembering and reporting on the San Ysidro McDonald Massacre, where 21 people died and 19 were injured on July 18, 1984…

It’s July 18, 2004. It’s hard to believe it’s been 20 years since reporting from the sky on the McDonald’s tragedy. A tragic part of San Diego history…and I had a birds eye view. It was my first year of reporting news and traffic from the air. Previously a ground reporter for about 10 years. But I was now breaking new ground as San Diego’s first female air traffic reporter and first Television Traffic Reporter. I soon found myself as the first reporter on scene, in the air over McDonalds. I broke the story on the San Ysidro shooting…giving my first-on-the-scene reports for several local radio and TV stations. Back then, depending mostly on weather conditions, we flew either a Bell Jet Ranger helicopter or a small fixed wing plane. Upon arriving on scene no one really knew what was happening – I was there to find out and report what I found.

It was first reported as a single sniper incident, that someone had been shot and stumbled into a post office. I was flying just a few minutes away over by the Coronado bridge when I got the report from my producer, and we, my pilot and I, continued South to San Ysidro. I was in the area quickly after that. As I looked down with my binoculars I was shocked and surprised to see utter CHAOS. Thank GOD we had chosen to fly the plane that day flying nice and high out of sniper range – since James Huberty (an unemployed security guard) was still shooting.

As we circled, I saw a San Diego Fire crew ducking for cover behind their fire rig. I immediately radioed back to my producer that this was more than what was first reported. I could see arriving Police quickly shutting down streets. My non-stop reports began. I was alerting motorists to steer clear of this area, what streets were closed and what alternate routes to take…as I reported I could see the windows of the Mc Donalds restaurant were shattered by all the gunfire.

As I continued to circle I also saw that traffic traveling to and from the U.S./Mexico border crossing at San Ysidro was traveling directly behind McDonalds and in the line of fire – so I radioed this back to my producer who called and had officials shut down the border crossing, and CHP stopped freeway traffic into this area. As I continued to circle the area – I then noticed the people who were hiding against the wall in the playland area…and then I saw two young boys lying on the ground motionless, with their bicycles, just outside the doors to McDonalds.

My reports to the Television and radio stations were non-stop until other ground reporters could get close enough to the area. In my mind I felt I needed to keep reporting, keep talking and help keep people out of the area…keep them informed on the tragedy below me. Other airborne traffic and news reporters units arrived some 20 minutes later.

In my reports, I did not mention I could see the people who were hiding in the playland area – why? Because we had heard the gunman may have a radio and was possibly listening to the radio broadcasts. I didn’t want to put those hiding in even more danger of being his next victims. It was about an hour and 45 minutes of circling and reporting when I then watched as a San Diego Police Sharp Shooter fired the fatal shot that took Huberty down. I then saw the officers rush the building…once the scene was secure, then it was the fire fighters and paramedics who were all jumping over the walls rushing to save those who could be saved. I was relieved to see help was coming…but now I was devastated to hear it was too late for some 21 people…including five children and six teenagers.

As I flew out of area…I started hearing the reports of the carnage inside where most were killed. That’s when it finally hit me, up until then I was doing my best to keep people safe and out of the area – that was my job. I remember thinking to myself I hope I was able to help in some way during this tragedy. Another thought…I certainly couldn’t accept any news awards for this because people had died, especially the children.

When we landed back at the airport I found myself drained of energy. I couldn’t wait to get home to hug my 3 year-old daughter. Once home I didn’t want to let her go – and I cried…thinking of those who had just lost their babies, their children earlier that day.

It wasn’t very long after that awful day I started hearing from residents in that Southbay area. They were calling me, or coming up to me and actually “thanking me for saving their lives.” Some said they were headed down there, to that McDonalds, or, they were going to that Post Office next door when they heard my reports just in time. I also received words praise from those who were coming across the border crossing at that time, how they were now stuck in traffic due to the closure. Months later I was invited to take a tour of the U.S. Border crossing, that’s when Border officials started telling me about how traffic was backed up for miles that fateful day coming into the U.S., but, it was strange that “no one honked or even complained.” How everyone had been listening closely to their radios – listening to my reports. Border Officers said they could hear my voice coming from the car radios reporting the dangers just a short distance away.

It was then, because of all those comments, that a year later, I was more comfortable and proud to receive a Golden Mike and two San Diego Press Clubs awards for those reports.

Now, working for the El Cajon Fire Department, I’ve continued that passion to educate and help keep people safe! I’m probably a fanatic about safety…but I’ve been teaching people to be more aware of their surroundings, at home, at work at play and behind the wheel – no matter where they are. But, the most important lesson…never miss a moment to tell the people you love – how much you love them “every day.”

I still remember that day very well, especially when other mass shootings occur. As tragic as it was, I was proud to have helped in some way…in possibly preventing the numbers of those killed or injured from being any higher than they already were.

I can also say it took me several years before I was comfortable enough to walk into a fast food restaurant. But I still look over my shoulder and I still prefer the drive thru.

Some personal thoughts from now the City of El Cajon Public Information Officer & Safety Educator Monica Zech.

Note: A memorial now sits at the site of the former Mc Donald’s restaurant, son the camapus of Southwestern College Campus-San Ysidro. The address is 460 W. San Ysidro Blvd. It’s located between the post Office and a Donut shop

To contact Monica Zech call (619) 441-1737 or email her at [email protected].

(Note: One of our El Cajon Fire Captains Steve Swaney was a young Hartson’s paramedic and there on the ground trying to save lives when the shooting finally stopped. I’m proud to be working with these true heroes…)

News Headlines – Man Opens Fire; Kills 21, Injures 19 – (7-18-84)

SAN DIEGO — Nearly 20 years after a man opened fire at a San Ysidro McDonald’s, people gathered Thursday to remember the victims who were gunned down during the massacre.

On July 18, 1984, James Huberty, armed with three guns, pushed past McDonald’s customers and went on a shooting spree. Huberty killed 21 people and injured 19. The shooting rampage, which lasted more than an hour, ended after police sharpshooter Chuck Foster fired a shot that killed Huberty.

A granite memorial was built on the site to honor the 21 victims. Among the victims was an 11-year-old boy riding his bike by the McDonald’s when Huberty shot him through the window.

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Today’s Local News Article – Driving Safety Lectures

Posted on 13 April 2007 by Monica Zech

Monica Zech uses her experience as a traffic reporter and public safety spokeswoman to put new motorists …On The Road To Safety

By Pat Sherman


San Diego Union-Tribune

Monica Zech doesn’t sugarcoat the consequences of unsafe driving.

As a traffic reporter for 18 years, the native San Diegan has witnessed more than her share of gruesome scenes, and she has the photos to prove it.

Teens who race down the road chatting on cell phones or drive while stewing about bad grades should be prepared to meet the “human cheese grater,” her term for concrete and asphalt.

“To give us some traction for our tires, they make these roadways … very rough,” Zech said, addressing an auditorium of 65 future drivers last Saturday at MiraCosta College’s Oceanside campus. “When you fly off your motorcycle or you’re ejected out of the car, you’ll slide against the human cheese grater. It’ll rip through your clothes, through the skin and right down to the bone….

“If you missed the roadway, that’s good, then they might find you in the guardrails and the trees,” she added, filling a screen behind her with the image of a man impaled through the groin by a roadside post.

“We often hear your last words,” said Zech, a public information officer for El Cajon’s police and fire departments.

Zech offered her tough-love traffic safety sermon during a four-week, driver education course, offered through MiraCosta’s community services department. Zech is an occasional guest lecturer for the course, which will be offered again from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. April 21-May 12 and May 19-June 16.

During her presentation, Zech used graphic video and images of local accidents to reinforce her message.

“Being sleepy is just as dangerous as being under the influence,” Zech said.

To illustrate, she showed footage recorded by a dashboard-mounted camera of a car piloted by a drowsy driver.

“This guy is breaking all the rules,” Zech said. “He’s half asleep, he’s not wearing a seat belt, and he’s got a Dale Earnhardt shirt on.”

“Whoa!” cried one student, as the husky driver lost control of his vehicle and was tossed like a rag doll from the front seat to the back seat, coming to rest in a jumble of crushed metal.

“Did he lose his job?” a student asked.

“Yes, he probably did,” Zech said.

“Actually, he did survive,” she added. “He just can’t walk again.”

Zech offered a caveat for chatty teens. Statistics show that 60 percent of California crashes are cell-phone related. In July 2008, all drivers will be required by law to use a hands-free device for cellular calls, she noted.

An accompanying slide showed the result of a loquacious driver of a tractor-trailer slamming into two parked cars and a house.

“He said, ‘`Oh, I think my brakes went out or something,'” Zech said. “Well, no, he was reaching for his cell phone, he finally admitted.”

Zech also discussed what she calls the “Superman/Superwoman effect,” when drivers or passengers are propelled through the windshield or ejected through a side window. She cautioned her young audience to cool it behind the wheel to avoid a fatal, superhuman status.

“If you’re going 70 miles per hour and you crash without a seat belt on, your body is thrown forward at whatever speed you’re traveling,” she said. “You’re shot straight out like a bullet.”

Anger management
Three of four auto collisions are caused by road rage, Zech said. Under California’s road rage law, a person convicted of driving recklessly while enraged…a misdemeanor on the first offense … could be fined between $250 and $1,000, required to take anger management courses or spend up to six months in jail.

“If you cause an injury or death because you’re getting even, that ends up as a felony and you don’t want that on your record,” she said.

Wrapping up her talk, Zech told students that traffic safety is both a professional and a personal issue for her. In June 1992, her father was killed by a 23-year-old drunk driver. It was the man’s fourth drunken driving conviction. Her daughter was hit by a drunk driver two years ago, and suffered minor injuries.

“I feel very fortunate,” Zech said, clicking on a slide of another traffic fatality. “Some parents aren’t (so) fortunate.”

A collective gasp spread through the auditorium as Zech explained a mess of crushed metal. The impact happened when a speeding driver car plowed into a woman on her way to her wedding.

“She was killed on her way to get married,” Zech said. “There was a whole church full of people waiting for her and the cops had to break it to them.”

Steve Prior, 15, of Oceanside said he found some of the footage shocking.

“It makes you think a lot,” the El Camino High School student said.

El Camino student Rachele Johnston, 16, said she plans to share Zech’s advice with her mother. Her parents are in the process of helping her shop for a car.

“We’re looking, just seeing what the safety rate is on them,” Rachele said.

Rancho Buena Vista High student Nick Shoup, 16, said Zech’s presentation also moved him.

“It really prepares you for the reality of what could happen to you if you don’t drive safely,” Nick said.

Zack Sanders, 16, said he related to Zech’s cautionary words about avoiding road rage and being “felony stupid.” The Guajome Park Academy student is working to save money for a 2001 Honda Prelude.

“When I get older, I want to get a motorcycle, and I had no idea how much danger there really is to motorcycles,” he said.

Zech obtained much of the footage through her long-standing association with traffic investigators.

“I try to show things all around the county so they realize it’s not just (happening) in one area,” she said. “I share these experiences so they understand it could happen to anybody.”

Class instructor Marsha Young still screens retro fright films like “Red Asphalt,” though she said they don’t have the same impact as Zech’s words and images.

“This is really dramatic,” Young said. “She’s an excellent speaker.”

Behind-the-wheel driving instruction also is also offered through MiraCosta College weekday afternoons and weekends at Carlsbad, El Camino and Rancho Buena Vista high schools, and at MiraCosta’s Oceanside and San Elijo campuses.

— Pat Sherman – Reporter

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Posted on 05 April 2007 by Monica Zech

Educators, concerned family and friends – I highly recommend the following program for driver education classes, traffic schools or if you’re concerned about someone you know that drinks alcoholic beverages and then drives. To fully understand the dangers of this practice attend one of these meetings. – Monica Zech

MADD Victim Impact Panels – What Are They?:

Mothers Against Drunk Driving believes that drunk drivers and potential impaired drivers need to hear what happens to the victims in impaired driving crashes. The Victim Impact Panel is a tool for accomplishing this goal.

MADD chapters select a panel of three or four victims to speak briefly about the impaired driving collisions in which they were injured or in which a loved one was killed, and how those crashes have impacted their personal lives.

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The Real-Life Dangers of Texting and Driving!

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