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Tales from Tawa: Lesson Learned

“Dad, I think you’d better come quickly, Jason’s unconscious!”…

Eve-Marie Wilson tells a cautionary tale which should be heeded by parents and teenagers alike.

“Dad, I think you’d better come quickly, Jason’s unconscious!”
My husband and I were woken to this desperate plea in the early hours of New Years Day.

We were holidaying at Tahunanui, a popular New Zealand beach resort, with my teenage son Mike and his friend Jason. Having no desire to see the New Year in ourselves, we agreed the boys could spend an hour or so with the crowds in the park adjoining the beach. We had just dropped off to sleep when Mike burst into our motel room to tell us about Jason.

My husband threw on some clothes and drove Mike across the park to the beach. As he followed him through the sand dunes to where Jason was lying, Mike explained what had happened. He said, he and Jason had walked around the park for a while, but finding this rather boring they decided to take a walk along the beach. They’d come across a group of slightly older boys with whom they stopped to chat. These boys were handing around a bottle of drink that they offered to Jason and Mike. Mike declined their offer but, Jason thinking it was Cola, took a few swigs.

As they continued their walk, Jason became rowdy, whooping and hollering as he went. He then began to stagger and told Mike he wanted to back to go the motel. Not realizing Jason was unwell, Mike said he wanted to stay a little longer. Jason then lay down on the sand and went to sleep. Mike tried to rouse him, but found he couldn’t. He became alarmed when he noticed froth coming from his mouth and nose, so he dragged Jason up the beach away from the incoming tide and ran for help.

My husband and son’s attempts to lift the strapping sixteen year old, a dead weight in his unconscious condition, proved fruitless. As they were pondering their problem a couple of passing strangers came over and offered to help. Between them they maneuvered Jason’s lifeless body through the sand dunes to the car were they managed to get him onto the back seat. They drove back to the motel where they asked my advice on Jason’s condition. I looked at his cold comatose body, and felt his weak, but rapid pulse. All attempts to rouse him proved futile. It appeared as if Jason had been poisoned! I uttered one word, “hospital” and then added, “as quickly as possible.”

The trip to the hospital was a nightmare, as being unfamiliar with the district, we had to keep stopping and asking for directions.

On arrival at the hospital we followed the signs to the Emergency Department only to find the main entrance was closed for the night. A notice on the door advised patients to use a side entrance. An arrow pointed the way, but this provided pedestrian access only. I ran into the hospital, while my husband looked for a car park. Eventually, I found a porter who slowly ambled out with a wheelchair. He took one look at Jason and realized this was not an appropriate means of transportation. Back he went to get a trolley.

We finally managed to get Jason into the Emergency Department where the nurse in charge told us as they were very busy, they didn’t have a vacant cubicle for him and he would have to wait in the corridor.

As a precaution, and to assess the priority of the case, a young house surgeon checked Jason’s vital signs. It was then the staff was alerted to the urgency of his condition. There was no way he could wait in the corridor. This was a life and death situation! He was wheeled into the main clinical area. Here his stomach was pumped, charcoal was used to absorb the poison, an intravenous drip was inserted into his arm and every attempt was made to bring him back to consciousness.

A blood test showed the alcohol in Jason’s system was equivalent to him having consumed a large bottle of whisky! However, it was simply not possible for this young lad who had never had alcohol before, to have consumed this much in the short time he was away from the motel. We had no idea what he had drunk nor did we have any knowledge of his medical history, which made the task of the hospital staff somewhat more difficult.

As Jason’s parents were also on holiday in another part of the country we were not immediately able to contact them. Finally, after three hours of anxious waiting Jason began to stir. Although he was out of danger, as a precaution he spent the night in the intensive care ward. We then had the unenviable task of locating his parents to tell them what had happened.
When we went to collect Jason the following morning he was horribly embarrassed, and full of remorse. Although he suffered no permanent damage, it could have been a different story had Mike also drunk from what appeared to be an innocent bottle of soft drink being passed around a group of friends.

We are all aware of warning small children about the danger of taking anything from strangers; however, the risk obviously doesn’t lessen as they grow older.

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