Shelby's Rules - an Alcohol Poisoning Education Foundation
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Director's Message

Deb and Shelby at Thanksgiving Dinner
Deb and Shelby at Thanksgiving Dinner

Message from the Director

I founded the Shelby Lyn Allen Alcohol Poisoning Education Fund after my 17 year-old daughter, an 11th grade student at Foothill High School in Palo Cedro, California died of acute alcohol poisoning. On the first night of Christmas break 2008, my daughter and her friends began drinking at a nearby home. It is unclear what happened, but we are told Shelby became violently ill and was semi-conscious when her friends left her propped up over the toilet. When she was discovered the next morning, she could not be revived.

In the aftermath of this unbelievable tragedy, I began asking questions. As I talked to teens, I came to realize that most of them have no clue that drinking just a few too many swallows of an 80 proof alcohol, like vodka, can kill you. As unfair as this seems, if you are a girl, your risk is increased by variables such as fluctuating hormone levels and smallness of frame.

Shockingly, I came to realize that most adults have no clue about the dangers of alcohol poisoning. Sure we know that excessive drinking can make us sick or make us do foolish or embarrassing things and leave us with a headache and a nasty hangover. And most of us can remember letting a friend, “sleep it off” but we have no idea how easily that friend might have slipped into a deadly coma or vomited in their sleep, choked to death and died.

For a young woman of Shelby’s 107 pound weight, as little as eight (8) ounces of 80 proof vodka over an hour or two can lead to coma and death if no medical care is provided. Once alcohol poisoning has begun the only effective treatment is to get the poisoned person to a hospital emergency room, provide breathing assistance as needed and provide IV therapy (nutrients). Most importantly, this care must be provided immediately to be effective and because of the possibility of brain damage every minute counts.  Alcohol poisoning causes the brain to shut down vital organ processes, including breathing.  If your breathing stops, your heart stops, you die.  By all accounts, if breathing is assisted by intubation (breathing tube) the body will rid itself of alcohol and you will survive.

Shelby’s untimely and ultimately preventable death has devastated my family. And while we understand that underage drinking is a terrible problem, my family and I are realists. Our daughter made poor choices that night, but those choices should never have led to her death. It is the hard truth that despite our best efforts to protect them, in the end our children’s safety, their very lives can come down to other young people knowing when and how to ask for help.

I have vowed to do whatever I can to educate teens, young adults and parents to the dangers of alcohol poisoning. I want all of them to know that immediate medical intervention can save lives. It is my deepest desire that no other families or friends will have to endure the pain of loss that we experience every day of our lives.

I will work to get this lifesaving message out however I can. Please help me to educate our young people so that we can save them and teach them to save one another.


Debbie Allen

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