10.04.2008

Casualty night

It was cold tonight. I was huddled outside the bar, attending the CD release party of a band some friends of mine are in. There was something odd in the air. Too many ambulances. I was broke, had cancelled all of my plans today for a band rehearsal that didn't go down, and couldn't come up with anything better to do with myself than alternating between the coastal chill of the street and the noisy isolation of a packed bar.

The drummer I jam out with on the weekends got kicked out twice, fortunately he had the good grace to buy me a beer before getting thrown out, obviously over-intoxicated. I briefly considered driving him home, until I remembered he mentioned that in situations like that he sleeps it off in the passenger seat of his truck, which he needs to get to work in the morning anyway. He sat on the ground, slumped over, in an alcove just out of sight of the main entrance. The police were kind enough to let us deal with him rather than dragging him away to sleep it off behind bars. The bartender suggested letting him get a taste of the cold air before trying to move him.

After some time went by, I walked over to see if I could rouse him enough to get him into the car, and my phone started going off in my pocket just as I was prodding him to get him moving. The voice on the other end was another friend involved in the health care field. She was calm but her tone Meant Business. She said she might need to call an ambulance for one of her housemates and she'd like me to stop by either way. In retrospect, I should have asked her what was up, but isntead I rushed over to my car and to their house. The drummer, I reasoned, was surrounded by people who knew who he was, and had a car nearby to sleep in.

With no idea what to expect I walked into the room where the friend who called me was tending to my other friend, who was obtunded and sitting up against a bed.

"Hey, look at this guy!" I bellowed with a practiced grin on my face. He wasn't moving, or opening his eyes.

"Heartrate's 100, resps are 5", my friend said as I knelt down on the other side of our friend. She's been a CNA (now pre-nursing), and this wasn't the first time we've "worked" together unofficially like this.

His eyelids and cheeks had a bluish tint to them. I drive my knuckle into his sternum and start shouting his name, and get a shallow, grunting snore for my efforts. I hadn't checked yet, but I would have bet anything his pupils were constricted.

"...tried that", she said, she was standing beside him now, cellphone in hand.

"is the ambulance coming?" she hadn't called them yet. "Call them now". I said that a couple of times, I think. I wondered for a moment if the paramedic would be anyone I know.

While she worked the phone I kept rubbing his sternum and got one of the other housemates to bring me a flashlight. Yup, pinpoint pupils. My continued painful stimuli was rewarded with maybe 8 or 9 shallow respirations per minute instead of the 4-5 he was running before.

It hasn't even been a year since I'd lost a friend to this, damnit.

In maybe a minute flat, there were..I dunno..3 EMTs, a paramedic, 3 firefighters and what looked like a barely pubescent volunteer carrying gloves. Me and my friend got out of the way and answered their questions as best as we could. Yes, he drank a lot today. Yes, he does that frequently. No, we didn't see him take any drugs besides a couple tabs of LSD. No, we've never known him to take heroin or any other opiates. On a hunch, I asked one of his housemates of they were missing any klonopin. They weren't.

The EMTs slip in a nasal endotracheal tube and connect it to oxygen, and after seeing his pupils the paramedic draws up a dose of narcan. At this point it was hard to see what was going on, the firefighters were crowding around the door, standing on tiptoe to get a better view for when the narcan kicks in. He woke up smoothly, opened his eyes and started answering questions, and walked himself to the stretcher waiting for him outside.

The police asked us a couple of the same questions, but just hung out by the doorway without coming in. When my friend the nursing student said she didn't find anything in his room while she was looking for his ID, the younger of the pair shrugged and said "well, if you find it, flush it before he gets back".

Just as fast as they came, they all departed. I hung around for a while to smoke a cigarette with the housemates and listen to everyone decompress and return to normalcy.

Right around closing time I went back to the bar to see if the drummer was still passed out next to the bar entrance. He was gone. A couple of our friends loaded him into the passenger seat of his car, just like I thought they would.

Standing outside in the cold again, I caught just for a second the sight of that same ambulance, running lights and sirens, turning towards the club around the corner.

One of those nights, I guess.

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