Shanty-Town Medic

I love working events. The atmosphere, the people and the things I get to experience are amazing. It also challenges me. You find yourself working remotely, with very little equipment and support. A lot of initiative is used – and experience gained.

This particular event was a very well known rock festival. I had volunteered to work the night shift and was stood in a medical centre (think gazebo) in a very muddy campsite. My job was healthcare provision for the attendees who were camping over this weekend event. The site I was working on had 6 members of staff. Myself, four first aiders and a cycle responder – an ambulance technician who was placed on a bike in order to respond within the footprint of our patch.

The atmosphere was incredible. It was early evening, the sun was still blazing and a steady stream of people moved around the campsite. We dealt with a few minor illnesses and injuries as the evening went on.

All in all, things were calm. A bit too calm. Dare I say it; quiet.

Within the healthcare setting the Q word is something which remains unsaid as it is known to bring around great storms of chaos and usually make a pleasant shift a lot, lot harder.

As the night drew closer; the area around us got a lot busier. People were returning from the stages and digging in for the night in scenes reminiscent of post-apocalyptic movies. The atmosphere was ramping up; the calm I had come to enjoy was very quickly coming to an end and with it our patient flow increased.

As the darkness closed in we switched to headlamps and camping lights to light up the environment. Directly opposite us was three food vans with a constant queue of people. Further along, there was around 9-10 toilets. The ground in front was a large lake of chemicals; and presumably, faeces where they were leaking into the surrounding soil. This meant for the most part the toilets were deserted.

While I was pondering the implications of this great lake of defecation a group of young lads hurried into the medical centre.

“We need help! Our friend has taken something and we think he has overdosed” A very panicked young man half shouted, half choked.

The technician on the bike took the call and off he went into the distance. I went over to the table with our information pack and radio on and called it in.

“Treatment Centre 1 to control” I spoke into the radio.

“Go ahead, treatment centre 1” The voice replied.

I quickly gave a grid reference of the approximate location of the tents I could the lights of the bike stood by and asked for some support – specifically some security staff to meet the technician at the location. The voice came back and confirmed. Not two minutes later an all terrain quad bike type vehicle lit up the group of tents.

My personal radio came to life.

“Cycle Response 1 to Hotel 1” It was the technician calling me.

“Go ahead” I replied.

The technician gave me a quick sit-rep* stating that they had a young man who was currently unresponsive. He was going to return to the post with the patient on the back of the security staff’s vehicle and await backup with us. That way I could assist in stabilising the patient.

I watched as the headlights moved across the rows of tents; illuminating people stood around the camping area, sometimes causing an eerie haze through the clouds of smoke from barbecues, shisha pipes and various substances that were being exhaled around the campsite.

As the vehicle moved closer we got the bits we would need ready. I worked with some of the first aiders to get the ECG machine set up, hang a bag of fluids and prep some airway kit as well as a cannulation kit.

The vehicle pulled up and four security personnel dragged in a young man and placed him on the trolley. He had an NP airway in already from the technician (Nasopharyngeal Airway – a flexible tube placed into the nostril that maintains the airway in a patient who cannot maintain their own).

“17 year old male – ?substance taken. Found by friends face down on floor – snoring”

This young man/boy was completely unconscious. He was breathing for himself and his oxygen levels were a reassuring 97% on air. However, his heart rate was 130 and his blood pressure was low. I placed a large cannula in his arm without even a flinch and gave a bolus of fluids in the hope of raising the blood pressure while the technician undertook a secondary survey – searching for injuries or clues with nothing found.

Whilst I was pushing the fluid into the patients cannula I looked out of the treatment centre and made eye contact with a young lady. The lady in question – if you could call her that, was squatting down and adding to the sewage.

“My job is so glamorous” I thought to myself as I watched security escort her away from the area.

The young man had taken an overdose of spice we came to find out. He required further intervention and spent a week in intensive care before being discharged fit and well. The young lady – I am reliably informed was ejected from the festival – she left without her dignity, although I’m not sure she had any in the first place.

*Sit-Rep is a situation report. A brief description of events unfolding and resources required.


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