What happens inside the Schoolies Medical Centre?

What happens inside the Schoolies Medical Centre?

23 November 2014

IT took the consumption of a 700ml bottle of vodka in half an hour and a further 10 alcoholic drinks throughout Saturday for one schoolie to become so drunk he fell unconscious.

The teenage boy was rushed in to the makeshift medical centre on the busiest night of Schoolies, paramedics quickly unstrapped him from an ambulance bed and move him to the bed closest to the emergency entrance.

He was put in the recovery position, his raised to the top of his rib cage exposing his stomach.

St John volunteers placed him on an intravenous drip, and his friend holds the IV bag in the air while he is assessed and treated for extreme intoxication.

It was 10.10pm on Saturday.

The schoolie was given medication for his nausea and spent about three hours on an intravenous drip, rehydrating, before he was released into the care of his friends about 1am.

St John Ambulance SA granted The Advertiser permission to spend an hour in the medical centre at Schoolies in Victor Harbor.

It was startling.

There was blood. There was vomit. There were tears. There were scared boyfriends, girlfriends and best friends.

And there were hardworking volunteer nurses, paramedics and doctors helping treat the bloody, sick and concerned.

Every school leaver who presented to the centre was unsteady on their feet; some could not hold their own heads up or open their eyes.

Most were holding vomit bags to their mouth, heaving up the copious amounts of alcohol they had consumed since lunchtime.

A common theme among the group of schoolies who ended up in the medical centre was their need for a drip to help them rehydrate.

Others required a foil blanket for heat retention.

Centre commander Melissa Oudshoorn — who has volunteered with St John for 19 years — said the St John Medical Centre at Warland Reserve was not just a place for bandaids, it provided a critical service for schoolies.

“We can make such a big difference to these kids,” she said.

She said without the centre, many distressed schoolies would call emergency services who would not be able to cope with the high level of demand.

Instead, schoolies can present to the centre and receive immediate help.

Shortly before the unconscious boy was brought into the centre, a boy with fluoro streamers wrapped around his head was put in a bed.

He held a vomit bag up to his mouth. Later, he coughed up blood.

The boy was transferred to South Coast District Hospital as a precaution.

But Ms Oudshoorn said she did not know how his treatment progressed once he left the medical centre.

A further 10 minutes passed and a girl came in disorientated after hitting her head on the ground, followed by a boy who was placed two beds over with blood running down his arm from a large cut on his wrist.

These schoolies were four of 140 who presented to the medical tent on Saturday, up from 77 on the Friday night.

Between 10-11pm, more than 20 people were treated in Section B — for more major incidents.

At least nine of the 13 beds in Section B were continuously occupied.

As one patient was released, white sheets were quickly changed over and another schoolie would take their place, needing treatment for intoxication or an alcohol-related injury.

There were 32 schoolies who were transported to the South Coast District Hospital and of those, eight had to be further transferred to the Women’s and Children’s Hospital or Flinders Hospital for treatment.

Most of those who were transferred to metropolitan hospitals were for services that could not be provided on the Fleurieu Peninsula, including X-rays.

Over the Friday and Saturday nights, police made 21 arrests and a further four people were reported for various offences, including underage drinking in a dry zone.

But among the nausea, sprained ankles, vomiting and jelly legs, there were some positives to the chaos in the medical centre — friendship in its finest form.

Almost every patient had a friend to calm them down, hold their hair back as they vomited, fetch them water or make them laugh in times of pain.

“The majority of the people we saw were walked in by their friends so we know the message is getting through,” Ms Oudshoorn said.

“Teenagers still have enough knowledge to get help if their friend needs it — that’s a big thumbs up for everyone involved with this event.”

It was a confronting hour as the dark side of Australia’s teenage binge drinking culture was revealed.

But it was the St John volunteers who deserve praise for bringing a bit of light into the dark.

Meagan Dillon, The Advertiser, November 23, 2014.

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