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Students literally get inside look at drugs’ effect on body

BesKrasniqi Benedictine University talks about alcohol's effects braas she holds human braThursday Still Middle School Aurora. | Jeff Cagle~For Sun-Times

Besa Krasniqi of Benedictine University talks about alcohol's effects on the brain as she holds a human brain on Thursday at Still Middle School in Aurora. | Jeff Cagle~For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: December 22, 2011 1:34AM

AURORA — The smell of formaldehyde wafted throughout Tina Ortinau’s sixth-grade classroom Thursday morning as students took their seats.

Dozens of Still Middle School health students scowled at the scent as they looked curiously to the front of the room where four Benedictine University students stood in white lab coats.

“I’m sure everyone is buzzing in the hall about what’s happening in health class,” Ortinau said when introducing the guests.

Benedictine’s Adolescent Substance Abuse Prevention Program (ASAP) volunteers brought with them their knowledge of tobacco, drug and alcohol abuse, and some pretty interesting artifacts to help drill home their point.

A tattered, tar-filled lung and a cancer-stricken liver sat in small buckets filled with formaldehyde — startling examples of the effects of drugs and alcohol on the body.

The volunteers also brought with them a human brain and a couple of healthy hearts, as well as a liver in pristine condition and a fine specimen of a lung.

“We’re one of the only colleges in Northern Illinois that has a program like this,” volunteer Agim Jusufi said.

A former Still Middle School student himself, Jusufi remembers seeing the presentation when he was in sixth grade.

“It’s really rewarding to come back,” he said.

The presentation served as the finale for Ortinau’s sixth-grade health class’s Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drugs unit. Students taking health next semester also will get the opportunity to see the hands-on demonstration.

Some of Ortinau’s students, however, could have done without the real-life show-and-tell.

“Now I don’t want lunch,” one boy whispered as the volunteers held up a shriveled liver.

The presenters talked about the effects of alcoholism on one of the body’s most important organs.

The liver is in charge of filtering toxins out of the body’s blood. They demonstrated the difference between a healthy liver and the shriveled liver by squeezing the two organs. Formaldehyde dripped from the healthy liver like water out of a sponge. The unhealthy liver emitted just a few drops.

“The healthy liver is capable of releasing a lot of toxins,” one volunteer told the students. “Which one would you want?”

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