by DR THEMI GARAGOUNIS
Picture this: At midday, teenagers on a north coast beach gathered around a fourteen year-old who had collapsed and face-planted into the sand.
The entire group was staring blankly at her; I could hear one of them saying “she’s okay, she’s just had too much to drink.”
One of the group even took a photo of the girl with an iPhone to post it online and show all her friends that she had reached FUBAR status. FUBAR – that’s F****D UP BEYOND ALL RECOGNITION or REPAIR.
It made me think to myself, “Who needs enemies when you have friends like these?“
At that point my wife turned to me and said “you better get over there quick smart and see if she actually is okay”. These idiots are going to get this girl killed we both thought.
When I arrived at the scene, the girl was unconscious. I could hardly detect her pulse and a copious amount of pink fluid was dribbling out of her mouth. I asked her friends what she had taken.
“Nothing”, one screamed back at me. Upset at the accusation.
This girl too was under the influence. She swayed from side to side trying to maintain her balance and composure.
A boy in the crowd came forward and told me that the unconscious girl had downed a litre and half of Red Bull and vodka from a plastic coke bottle. All in the last 30 minutes.
This is an incredible amount of alcohol and caffeine to ingest in a 30-minute period. It can potentially be fatal. At these quantities alcohol suppresses breathing and the individual usually develops an acute inflammation of their stomach lining. In response, your body tries to expel all the alcohol via vomiting.
The real danger, however, is that at this level of consciousness you can aspirate the vomit directly into your lungs and burn them beyond all repair or recovery. This was the risk that this girl was facing.
I asked another friend of hers, “has any one called her mother?”
“Yes we have”, they answered. Lying.
In my book? Unacceptable behaviour when it comes to being a friend.
But why is it that no one did anything to help this girl?
Clearly they had not called her mother out of fear… or perhaps out of ignorance at the severity of the girl’s condition. Was it because they didn’t know what to do or was it that they were all off their faces on alcohol and other substances? Whatever the case, it was unacceptable behaviour when it comes to being a friend.
Luckily for her , someone was there to instigate basic life support measures while we waited for the ambulance.
Countless individuals do not get this opportunity. And in most cases the physical distress of these individuals goes unnoticed until it is too late to save them. You only have three minute to act between collapse, cardiac arrest or respiratory arrest before a friend can end up with irreversible brain damage or, worse still, dead.
If you are a parent of a teenager, if you spend time with young people or you are a young person who drinks then you must know this: you have to act quickly.
You only get 3 minutes to prevent brain death.
Be aware that flat-lining (the flat line of no heart beat) is not uncommon for young people who partake in excessive drinking and illicit drug use in the quest to attain ‘FUBAR’.
Most often flat-lining happens when an individual consumes too much alcohol or overdoses from an illicit drug or substance.
The drug or substance suppresses your breathing first and then your heart stops beating and you flat-line. It is then that the clock starts ticking. You only have 3 minutes to make a difference to your friend.
We have all seen the flat line on the monitor on those medical shows; you’ll never forget that piercing sound that the flat line makes in real life, when it happens to one of your friends.
So what can you do?
Step One: Drink responsibly and encourage others to do the same.
If you are going out to drink – and I am not saying don’t drink – drink responsibly.
Don’t mix your drinks with caffeine based drinks because at excessive levels, when combined with alcohol, they can potentially be lethal to your heart’s health.
Drink in a smart way, thinking about what you’re doing so yoy can remain in control. Do not mix illicit drugs with alcohol. Ever.
Step two: Always take the time to ask someone if they’re okay.
In the event of an emergency don’t take it for granted that your friend is just drunk and needs time to shake it off.
Actually ask them if they are okay, if they need help, and try to find out if they have taken anything that might put them at risk.
This will be important if they progress to unconsciousness. The paramedics will need to know what they’ve ingested and when because it’s important when it comes to reversing the effects of drugs.
Step three: Do something!
Don’t just stand there and think that your friend is just suffering from over-indulgence. Try and help, if you are not getting a response that tells you they are okay then call 000.
While you are waiting, check the following:
1. Airway: check their airway; clear any vomit or debris from the mouth.
2. Breathing: check that they are breathing.
3. Circulation: check their pulse; if there is no pulse then start CPR until help/AMBULANCE arrives.
It is essential that everyone is skilled in CPR; St John’s Ambulance service runs CPR Courses and I strongly advise everyone to attend as it may mean the difference between life and death for anyone in need in an emergency.
4. Forget FUBAR and tell any teenager you know the same.
Take care of each other when you are out and about and forget FUBAR.
It’s not a good look for you and it may cost you far more than a hangover headache.