Posts tagged: heroin

Pumpkin Time

By , April 27, 2010 3:05 pm

I check my watch.  It is 2.23pm.  Just as I am getting up from my desk, I hear the sound of thumping steps down the passage.  Through unconfidential walls, I can hear Glynnis, one of the General Practitioners, bustling past my door, talking urgently as she goes.

“Do you want to call a Code Blue?” a voice asks with urgency.

“Ah, no, not yet, we should be right,” she replies, her tone stating otherwise.

I stop for a moment, my hand reaching for the doorknob.  I pause.  And then the announcement comes:

“Code Blue, front foyer.  Code Blue, front foyer.”

I pull at the door and turn left, walking the hall, following the scent of blood.  As I open the door to the waiting room there is an unusual sight – not a single head facing my way.  Instead, everyone is craning towards the exit.  I follow their eyes through the sliding doors, walking as I do.  And there I see Glynnis and another doctor crouched over a prostrate body.  There are four others standing around in a ring.  As I approach, I see Glynnis stab a barrel through a pair of jeans and into a left quadricep.

Overdose.

Working in Medical Rooms at the base of inner city Commission Flats has been an education.  Based in Paediatrics, I have not been direct witness to the effects of drugs;  more so the indirect emotional and behavioural butterfly effect they can have on kids and their families in the area.

That is, until now.

“Mark, wake up, Mark.”

As if the scene isn’t surreal enough, Glynnis is trying to bring me round.

“Yes, Glynnis?”

“That’s his name,” they chorus together, like they’ve been practising all afternoon.

“Right.”

I reach down for a pair of blue gloves.  As I move around, I see Mark’s face is a darker hue than the plastic on my hands, his eyes ajar, his pupils pinpoint, his mouth slack.  There he lies, in Jesus Christ pose.

Mark’s having a great time.  But he’s stopped breathing.  Party time is over.

Like I said, working near the Commission Flats has been an eye-opener.  The vicious circle of underprivilege hangs like a pall over the area.  Living in government housing, the near-association with gambling and crime, the tap-on effect of alcohol and drugs, and from there, to mental illness.  I’ve the seen the kids of these parents, and the results of this dangerous cocktail.

I’ve written letters to the Department of Housing about cockroach infestations, I’ve spoken to school teachers of kids that don’t get lunch in the second week of the dole, and I’ve liaised closely with the Department of Human Services after seeing forms of abuse that are better not written about.

It’s heartwrenching, and it’s definitely not pretty, but it’s a totally different type of not-pretty to this.  Had Mark not shot up in the toilets of a Medical Centre, in six minutes time, he’d be dead.

“Hey, Mark,” Glynnis yells.  I try not to startle.  She positions his flaccid neck, applying the oxygen mask to his face.  The other GP moves his legs around, stimulating him, trying to check for any signs of life.

A short and measured debate ensues about whether he needs bagging and masking, or whether the Narcan is starting to have effect.  The jab in the thigh will save his life, but cut well-short Mark’s high.  The reality of this situation is that when Mark comes round, he’ll be more pissed about losing his high than he is grateful for being alive.

Ah, beautiful medicine.

“What the fuck is going on?” Mark asks, stirring intermittently, swiping at the facemask, before settling back into his coma.

“You were using in the toilets, mate.”

I feel for a pulse.  Strong and regular.  In about ten minutes, he’ll be tearing strips of the ambos.

“Nah, I wasn’t,” he dribbles about 30 seconds later.  He falls back down the rabbit hole.

Mark is well known to clinic, and through months of trust that had developed, he was granted two minutes alone in the toilet.  This was just long enough for him to grab a spoon from the kitchen, and cook up his next meal.

When, three minutes later, Mark was discovered on the floor with his gear and his spoon, he was dragged to this current plot of concrete.  The spoon was left in the loo, waiting to be retrieved by cleaning staff and returned to it’s rightful home.

Just in time for someone’s pasta lunch.

Glynnis performs a quick neurological examination of Mark, in response to a story about a limp and difficulties standing – the reason for the toilet in the first place.  A bad case of leg-paralysing-constipation.

Surprisingly, he’s perfect now.

Within moments, on this beautiful, warm summer’s afternoon, we see the flashing lights of the ambulance.  It’s Mark’s approaching coach, just waiting to turn into a pumpkin.  Seven minutes and counting.

We stand and chat, the moment passed for medical intervention, as Mark continues to bat weakly at his plastic oxygen mask, in the final throes of his high.  Inside his veins, a powerful drug blocks receptors by the million, closing in like a relentless crusador.  It’ll be over in no time.  Last chance to play the astronaut, Mark.  Fly, buddy, fly.

Two doors open, and from them emerge a pubescent girl and a silverhaired gent.  They walk slowly towards us, all blue uniforms and tilted gaits, their lean balanced by heavy bags and heavy moods.

“Hey guys,” we say.  They look at Mark.

“We got here early.”

“Just in time,” Glynnis says, an unspoken truth understood by all.  We all look at Mark, like something worth pondering.  “We’ll leave it to you guys, then?”

They know that just as they make it to their dispatch hospital in five minutes time, Mark will wake in rage, asking for his money back.

I call it pumpkin time.

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