15 Shots Killed Shelby Allen
What's perhaps more shocking is that the 17-year-old drank them at a friend's house, while the parents were home. Here, how her mom is fighting to make sure no other child dies this way
A Mother's Mission continued...
So, Debbie says, "I explain this stuff to these [other] kids. I admit that I didn't know enough about the dangers of alcohol to properly educate my children about them. I make sure other kids know, 'When in doubt, call 911,' and 'Vomiting = Alcohol poisoning.' " These are two of the key mottoes featured prominently in the materials Debbie hands out at her talks and in the public service messages her organization distributes. She has received letters of appreciation and interest from all over the country - attention sparked in part by the fact that Shelby's uncle, executive producer for the NBC series ER at the time, had his niece's story woven into the show's final episode, which aired the spring following Shelby's death.
In over 100 classrooms and auditoriums along the West Coast, Debbie has displayed an 8-ounce water bottle, noting that this was the amount of alcohol that was found in her daughter's body. "I explain that at about a blood alcohol level of 0.16, kids are generally throwing up, and by 0.30, they are passing out. Allowing someone to pass out after drinking and leaving that person to 'sleep it off' may actually be leaving someone to die," says Debbie. "Most kids don't know that the only way to save that person's life if he or she has in fact had too much to drink is to get medical attention immediately." "Shelby's Rules" share specific steps to take: Wake the person up; shake him; pinch him; if he doesn't respond, call 911 and then involve an adult.
The goal, Debbie insists, is not to "teach kids how to drink," as some parents within the community have complained, but to provide kids with an education that will encourage them to take alcohol seriously, hopefully avoid it altogether, and recognize a deadly situation and take the appropriate steps. Debbie takes special pride in the stories she's heard about underage drinkers rescuing their friends from alcohol poisoning - because they knew what to do. "After one presentation I gave in Anderson, [CA], when a teen started vomiting after drinking at a party, his friends immediately marched him home," she recalls. "The boy made it home and collapsed into his mother's arms." His mother then took him to the emergency room, where he was successfully treated for acute alcohol poisoning. "One of the mothers checked to see if those boys were in the group that had seen my presentation, and they were," she reports happily. "It's proof this kind of alcohol education can really save lives."
Debbie often tours with Shelby's best friend, Alyssa - now a college student - who continues to have nightmares about that night. Alyssa, who describes herself as having been "guilt-ridden for months," was cooperative in the investigation of Shelby's death. She also admitted to underage drinking, served her 50 hours of community service with the Shelby's Rules foundation, and made the issue of alcohol poisoning and underage drinking her senior project. Her newfound zero-tolerance perspective on underage drinking, however, has not made her popular with kids her age.