Two weekends ago, I had the extreme misfortune of taking care of an under-21 friend (I'll call him Fred) who had had too much to drink. Luckily, someone (I don't remember who) was able to escort Fred back to his room (Fred and I are neighbors). I had spent the night in, quite sober.
My First Aid certification expired a few years ago, so I was a little rusty and more than a little nervous. How would I know whether Fred had taken a turn for the worst? I figured while Fred was still conscious and moving about (though confused), we'd be okay. Certainly not worth condemning Fred to the dean and possible sanctions, fines and whatnot. Right?
But then Fred kept dozing off. "Well, it's 1 a.m.," I thought. "Fred's probably just really tired." I put Fred in the recovery position (on his side with locked arms and legs and his chin up) within sight of me and made a mental note to look over every few minutes while I finished a leisure book.
I panicked when he vomited and I couldn't wake him up. Rather than calling 9-1-1, my first instinct was to call another friend (I'll call him George) for help, rather than the trained medical professionals who usually respond within a few minutes. I'm rusty, but I could definitely take care of this - no need to condemn Fred to the dean and possible sanctions, fines and whatnot. I just needed an extra pair of hands, right?
George and I eventually got Fred cleaned up, awake (but still confused) and next to the toilet so he could empty his stomach further without someone needing to pull his or her attention away to clean up the floor. Resourceful George and I pulled up the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's page on alcohol poisoning and I started running down the list of symptoms when Fred began to shiver pretty forcefully. Seeing hypothermia on the symptoms list, I panicked again and finally gave in to calling 9-1-1.
Fred was lucky enough that he hadn't drank much at all. What looked like alcohol poisoning to me was just a guy with low tolerance and no familiarity with his own limits (though admittedly, the distinction between the two probably isn't much at all). But what if it hadn't been?
What I should have done was called 9-1-1 the first time Fred threw up and I had trouble getting him awake. I had no way of knowing how much Fred had had to drink, and no way to know how serious his situation was.
I hate that I had to weigh my friend's health against the impact of sanctions from the dean, but more so, I'm terrified that I'm not the only one who gets in these situations. I wouldn't have known about the recovery position if I hadn't taken those First Aid classes in high school, and Fred could have drowned in his own vomit before anyone could have helped him.
What might occur when this happens again with two other students, one who is further gone and the other who doesn't know any First Aid at all?
So how about a compromise toward making our campus a safer place to live in, University of Richmond? I'll get re-certified for First Aid (and drag a few friends along) and keep a better eye on my friends who do decide to drink.
And in return, you can consider UREMS' amnesty proposal for students with alcohol-related emergencies so that no student has to weigh whether his or her Fred is far enough gone for it to be worth calling 9-1-1.