Well I was nervous about my NYE as I had applied to be in the medical tent at a big “rave” type festival on Phillips Island called the Pyramid Rock festival.
The medical tent consisted of 4 paramedics, 2 doctors, about 10 St John volunteers and a few other St John personnel who form part of the ACMT – a casualty management team including nurses and doctors. The tent was effectively an emergency department, the sick and injured would present to be triaged in an initial assessment, bites/stings/bandaids/sunscreen handed out in an area at the front. Sicker people would come in to sit on a chair and be examined and either moved to a stretcher or moved to the “chill out” area couches where they could let whatever substances they had taken wear off.
The "hospital" set up and the entry to the medical tent where people were triaged
The chill out area had drug and alcohol councillors experienced in talking to drug affected people and dealing with the paranoia and anxiety caused by the drugs. Patients identified as sick/intoxicated/drug affected would be placed on a stretcher bed for observation. The aim was to manage as many as possible within the realms of the facility.
A separate ATCO hut was also set up as an intensive care bed for major medical emergencies eg: heart attacks or bad asthma until transport to an appropriate facility could be arranged by either helicopter or road.
The facility worked well and during the night we treated 65 people and the night went quickly. Two patients were transported out due to exacerbation of existing problems.
The main problem was of course, drug ingestion and alcohol. Drink of choice was vodka. Ecstasy, GBH, Speed and Cocaine were also substances people admitted to using in varying quantities. Average age was around 18 with girls as young as 16 being treated. Symptoms included rapid heart rates, nausea, vomiting (mainly watery vomit as most ecstasy users drink a lot of water), agitation and emotional distress. A disturbing fact about drink spiking is that a drink spiker can “swap” your drink with a spiked drink, if you drop yours on the ground or it gets knocked out of your hand…….most of us believe if you drink out of a bottle, you are safe, just don’t let it out of your hand…at all…if it falls on the ground then get a new drink!
Most patients were given IV fluid, many receiving Maxalon for nausea, a space blanket and tucked into a stretcher bed for a couple of hours. The festival is a huge campground and the St John ambulance would head out when called to a tent, where a patient may be in an altered conscious state to bring the patient back to the medical tent for treatment. Quite a few could barely talk or walk on arrival, but were able to talk and walk (assisted) a few hours later. Several patients received stitches, and one had dislocated his shoulder from a fight. The mosh pit was dangerous with neck pain and loss of consciousness being a couple of presentations from the mosh pit. A young female patient spent the night asleep on a stretcher immobilised as she was found initially unconscious in the mosh pit with unknown cause. Lollipops are popular with the ecstasy users as they love to suck on sugary things.
At 5:45am I wandered into the “pharaoh tent” where the ravers were still partying hard to a DJ, lights music, just like a nightclub, but instead it is a huge tent in a paddock on a private property n Phillip Island.
I didn’t see much of the live music (but no problems hearing the bands until 2am, and then the doof doof of the Pharoah tent for the next four hours……but it was good fun)
Would I do it again….absolutely; it was a great learning experience and lots of fun. The team in the tent were fantastic and we all worked well together.
The event was well run, the medical facility was excellent, although the weather had been kind, not too hot (to reduce incidents of dehydration), and not too cold (hypothermia), and it was a fantastic way to spend New Years Eve, when your partner is away on a boys week away.