‘Making the Right Choice’

Photo by Jesse Beals Students at the seventh annual Kitsap County Youth Conference listened intently to Nora Sizemore speak about losing her 17-year-old son, Kyle, to a drunk driver in 2005.

By Rachel Brant
Oct 19 2007

Graphic images, human organs and powerful words were just a few of the tools used Tuesday to help Kitsap County youth make good choices on important issues.
The seventh annual Kitsap County Youth Conference was Oct. 16 in the President’s Hall at the Kitsap County Fairgrounds. More than 100 students in grades eighth through 12th attended the event.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) of Kitsap County sponsored the conference. Organizers hope the youth in attendance left the Pavilion more prepared to make good decisions about drugs, alcohol and driving.
“Hopefully they can remember some of these things and keep them in their minds,” said Marsha Masters, president of the Kitsap County chapter of MADD. “If you can impact 100 kids here, hopefully that ripple effect can continue to go outward.”
Dr. Ernie Franz, of Bainbridge Island, served as the keynote speaker for the Kitsap County Youth Conference. The former emergency room physician was hit by a 19-year-old impaired driver in August 2004 while riding his bicycle on High School Road on Bainbridge Island.
“He was severely impaired,” Franz said. “He said he never saw me.”
Franz sustained a spinal cord injury, 14 fractures, internal bleeding and a partially collapsed lung and was left an incomplete quadriplegic. He spent months in the hospital and continues physical therapy. After spending 17 years in the emergency room, Franz can’t return to the profession he loved because of the bad choice made by a teenage driver.
“It’s changed my career, my profession,” he said. “It would be hard to do an eight-hour shift on my feet.”
Franz now volunteers at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle spending time with patients who have spinal cord injuries. “I’m incredibly fortunate given what I’ve been through. I’m fortunate to be alive and have as much function and motion as I have,” he said. “Now I have people with spinal cord injuries who look up to me and think of me as a role model.”