20 Questions With an EDC EMT
NOTE: At the time of reaching out to Mike and writing this article, there had been zero reported deaths at EDC this year. Two days after the festival on Wednesday, June 22, a 20-year old woman named Kenani Kaimuloa was pronounced dead after having collapsed at the end the festival. Doctors believe the cause of death was heat stroke, dehydration and exhaustion. When she reached the hospital, her body was 110 degrees. Our sincerest condolences go out to those effected.
Be safe. Be smart. Look out for each other.
While we were all out partying and dancing and making new friends under the electric sky, the medical staff stationed at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway last weekend were working long hours and putting in incredible effort to keep us all safe. And they did an unbelievable job.
Reddit user mikefitness4 (Mike, in real life) chimed in on the r/aves subreddit with the following:
I worked medical at EDC…
And just wanted to say thank you too all of you. Around 99% of the people that I treated were super nice, super positive, and really appreciative of everything. By far the best event that I’ve worked medical wise. Also, 0 confirmed deaths, (I’d say that was a success, though there were very many critical patients). Safe raving everyone!
The post quickly turned into an AMA (Ask Me Anything – a question and answer forum for any of you not yet exposed to Reddit), where Mike started another post and began fielding questions about his own experience, how to stay safe at festivals, and what exactly goes on in the med tents.
We should all be very grateful that people like Mike are there to take care of us and make sure we’re safe. Next time you’re at a festival, make sure you go out of your way to thank the medical staff. God knows they’ve earned it.
So a huge thank you to Mike, the rest of the EDC medical staff, and every other EMT, nurse, health professional, and volunteer at festivals our there. You are nothing short of amazing.
Some questions I lifted directly from other Reddit users, some were asked by myself in the AMA, and some were sent in a direct message when I contacted Mike to make this post.
His Own Experience
Q: (asked by Reddit user jiimmmyyyy) What’s your occupation? How many years of experience do you have? How did you get the position and is it volunteer work? I’m an RN student and I’ve always wanted to work at medical tents at local music festivals!
A: I am an advanced EMT, 1 1/2 of schooling. I have 5 years of medical experience in the field. Insomniac actually hired my company, so we did get paid, but some did volunteer to work the amount of hours that we did. Most times festivals love to get nurses involved for their medical tents, so any festival that comes in you should contact! I’m not exactly sure on if nurses get paid or not, I know Insomniac usually hires nurses to travel with them to events.
Q: (asked by Reddit user Maplelovin) How many events have you worked in the past? Do you rave yourself? How’d you get introduced into doing this kind of thing?
A: I have worked 3 other festivals, first time for EDC. I do rave myself, (huge fan of the culture), Hard Summer, DOTD, and Dreamstate are on my list this year 🙂 Also as to how I got into it, I had a buddy who a while ago introduced me to Galantis, and ever since listening, i wanted to attend events and see how it was. Fell in love with it.
On Working Medical At Festivals
Q: (asked by Parker R) A friend of mine will be working EMS at Big Dub…anything she should be prepared for?
A: That’s awesome! Depending on how many days she works, I would say to be prepared for lack of sleep. Drug overdoses, seizures are very very common, and possible cardiac events. She’ll be doing a LOT of IV’s. The biggest and most crucial thing I would say to be prepared for would be patience. Some people work these events and can become extremely impatient with people while doing assessments. She will see patients that are extremely impaired or altered, and it takes a special type of person to realize this and understand that it is the drugs or alcohol impairing them, not that they want to be that way. If she can be patient, use her skills to her best of her abilities, and be understanding, she’ll do amazing.
Q: (asked by Reddit user gannons) Hey I’m working as a nurse this summer at Shambhala Music Festival. Any hints or advice you can offer me?
A: Thank you for what you do! Only advice I really have is that you will see a lot of seizures, possible OD’s, and lots of cases of dehydration associated with nausea and vomiting. Fluids, Zofran, and versed will be your best friend to use on most patients (not sure if you guys use versed out there). 90% of the people I treated, I let them sleep, gave them 2 liters of fluid with Zofran, and their turn around was amazing. With you being a nurse I’m sure you’ll have a wide scope of practice, and it’ll be hectic, but just have fun 🙂
Q: (from Reddit AMA) All my friends who work EMT hate working events, particularly festivals and raves…so kudos to you for going in with a positive attitude, too.
A: Why thank you! It’s pretty common honestly. I think a good amount of them probably don’t understand the culture, and don’t like the music. I like going to festivals, and if God forbid I ever needed to be treated, I would want the person treating me to be happy to be doing their job. So I try to be that way. And I got to start an IV to the beat of ‘Don’t Let Me Down’ by The Chainsmokers, that was a highlight.
On Treating Patients At Festivals
Q: (asked on Reddit AMA) For someone who comes to the tent, saying they may have taken too much MDMA, what would your course of action be to treat them?
Monitor them. Start an IV, give fluids. Keeping them hydrated and cool is the key. Other than that, time is the best cure. If they are unresponsive, it’s a total different game. But if they can speak to me, are alert and oriented, and have great circulation, then we’re waiting for the come down.
Q: (asked by Reddit user Freddy8) In a drug overdose at the event, what do you do to help? What can other concert goers do to help?
A: Depends on how the patient is presenting. Overdoses can cause multiple symptoms. Mainly for us, it’s keeping their airway open, getting an IV established, and running fluids. Also a drug called versed, which can stop seizures and bring the core body temperature down.
Other concert goers can help massively by letting event staff know immediately if they see someone unresponsive, and if that person seizes, keeping them away from sharp objects or any other objects. Also, making a path for the ambulance or cart to come to the scene.
Q: To follow up on this, what are warning signs we can look for in people who may be about to overdose?
A: Responsiveness is a huge one. Temperature as well. If your friend takes MDMA, and starts to either pass out, or start to lose cognitive abilities, it’s an early sign.
On EDC 2016
Q: (asked by Reddit user Nvader_) Over the event how many hours did you work? It blows my mind how much it takes to make everything possible.
A: I worked 17 hours Friday, 16 hours Saturday, and 12 hours Sunday. Lots of coffee!
Q: Fantastic that there were no deaths at EDC. Thank you for keeping everyone safe.
Were there any close calls, or any major critical injuries? One thing you never hear about is people that survived, but maybe suffered brain damage. Is something like that common when taking bad drugs?
A: There were a good amount of critical calls. Most of them being from overdoses, or cardiac events, or hypothermia. One person had a temperature of 109. That high of a temperature can cause severe brain damage, but they were treated quickly and survived, unharmed. I had one cardiac arrest there as well, that was my close call.
Q: What contributed to EDC being fatality free?
A: A great conscious effort by Insomniac, the patrons, security, and medical staff! Everyone did wonderful in helping.
Q: What are the impacts that MDMA really has on the body?
A: Blood pressure increase, heart rate drastically increases due to being on an amphetamine, breathing spikes as well. Biggest thing being temperature increasing due to your muscles inability to relax.
The body releases high amounts of serotonin, which is by no means normal. That’s why everything feels incredible, looks incredible, and you have a generally great feeling while on it. But that high of an amount of serotonin could be detrimental for the future, as it can cause depression. (We’ve all had post rave depression).
Q: What are some things people believe about MDMA that aren’t true?
A: That since their friend took a pill and had a great roll, means they will too. Body weight plays a huge role in how high of a mg dosage will hit you, and different pills affect others different ways.
On Personal Responsibility & Staying Safe
Q: What is the biggest mistake you see people making?
A: Taking too much MDMA, not educating themselves on the drugs they are taking, not keeping properly hydrated.
Q: With the growth in the scene have you noticed a change in personal responsibility over the past few years? Are people taking better care of themselves and each other or has it gotten worse?
A: Over the past couple of years I’ve noticed a good amount of awareness and responsibility, and I believe it’s increasing. Social media and the Internet help with facts on MDMA and are easily researchable, which is crucial.
Q: Do you find things like the Good Samaritan Law* to be well known? Or are people hesitant to approach medics/security with issues for the fear of legal consequences?
A: This is the part of festivals that is worrisome. I even tweeted something about medical care being free, and that YOU WILL NOT get arrested for receiving medical treatment. I know a lot of festival goers are nervous that they will get arrested if they get treatment. We will NEVER go to the cops or security, unless you are underage, or have possibly been assaulted or raped. We are not the cops, we don’t have handcuffs, I just want to provide you medical care and get you back out to the show. Not a single person was arrested after they took drugs and received treatment from me.
* As Mike stated, the Good Samaritan Law offers legal protection to people who give reasonable assistance to those who are, or who they believe to be, injured, ill, in peril, or otherwise incapacitated. Its purpose is to keep people from being reluctant to help a stranger in need for fear of legal repercussions should they make some mistake in treatment.
Q: What are the kinds of things we should tell paramedics if alerting them of an overdose situation?
A: What they took, how long ago they took it, medical history, hydration.
Q: Are people generally drinking enough water at festivals? What is happening to their body when they don’t?
A: Generally yes, but combine that with the Vegas heat and they severely underestimate how much the body needs. Go somewhere that’s 70ish degrees and you don’t need to drink nearly as much because your body isn’t secreting as much. The body will begin to shutdown without water. Your body is made of nearly 80% water 🙂
Q: At a festival a few years ago, I got heat stroke while standing in line to get into the venue. I was sober and hydrated and wearing sunscreen, but it still affected my body pretty severely to the point where I spent most of the day in the medical building and left the festival early that day. What are other things one can do to keep healthy at events?
A: Eat before the festival, get that blood sugar up. Also keeping up on electrolytes. water is incredible, it’s needed, but so is sodium and electrolytes. Massive amounts of water flushes out sodium, leaving your body subject to cramping. Electrolytes found in Gatorade or Pedialyte are best.
Q: If there was only one thing you could tell people surrounding health/safety/responsibility, what would it be?
A: Drugs can be used safely and effectively if researched and used in moderation. Also, research the things that you are putting into your body.
Some great resources are available at Dancesafe.com. Education and hydration are huge! Everyone stay safe out there.
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