There was a minor medical emergency on Friday night at World Fantasy. I share my account of the events, and my role in the process, because the event pointed up the fact that some people don’t know how to respond to this sort of a problem.
I didn’t do very much, and anybody could have done what I did, but somebody should have done it ten minutes earlier.
I was engaged in a late-night conversation in the lobby bar when one of the bikers with whom we shared the hotel approached our group.
“You guys, man… you guys gotta take better care of your own.”
“I’m sorry, what’s wrong?” I was puzzled. He seemed frustrated and worried.
“One of your girls, she’s sick drunk outside. She needs her friends to take care of her.”
At this point I excused myself from the conversation, and strode quickly out the door and around the hedge to where we’ll-call-her-Jane was sitting slumped against one of the bikers. A couple of other people from the biker event were standing close trying to wake her up and get her attention.
I read her name tag, leaned in (without touching her) and said “JANE, WAKE UP PLEASE.”
“I’ll be right back.” I strode into the hotel, marching with purpose to the front desk.
“There’s a woman on the bench outside, and she’s non-responsive. It looks like alcohol overdose.” (Note: I used the word “overdose” because I wanted to make sure they took the problem seriously — not because I have any medical training in the matter.)
That conversation was the point at which my involvement effectively ended. Hotel security arrived within seconds. They DID touch Jane, checking for a pulse, and attempting to roust her by loudly explaining that unless she answered them RIGHT NOW, they were going to have to call an ambulance.
They called an ambulance. Summing up, after an overnight in the hospital Jane was okay, but I didn’t see her back at the event until Sunday night. Apparently the alcohol didn’t agree with one of her medications. (See? Not an overdose. I was wrong!)
Here’s the salient point, the take-away for you, and for any convention-goer who finds themselves in a similar situation: HOTEL SECURITY KNOWS WHAT TO DO, BUT SOMEONE HAS TO TELL THEM THERE IS A PROBLEM.
When I returned to the group I’d been conversing with, they treated me as if I had done something amazing, like I performed CPR, or a field tracheotomy. Guys, I didn’t even call 911. I thought about it, then realized I didn’t know the address of the hotel. All I did was take ownership of the problem for just long enough to hand it off to the folks who knew how to solve it.
To be fair to the bikers, they probably see a lot of friends overdo the consumption, and they take care of those friends on their own. They’re a tight group, and they know each other. Still, the moment one of them realized that Jane was out cold, they should have called hotel security.
I’m an Eagle Scout. I can staunch bleeding, and feel for a pulse. I can do the Heimlich, and though my CPR skills are rusty, if I’m the only guy around who can do it, I’ll do all I can. But the critical skill in this particular situation, and in most of the convention medical emergencies I’m likely to run into, was the ability to speak clearly.
Oh, and the ability to decide to speak.
You can do this.