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My SO's nephew died of alcohol poisoning last night.

He was a bright kid, almost 26 (literally born on the 4th of July). He smiled, but the smile hid the demons of depression and alcoholism. He went through the typical alcoholic regimen, where he quit a million times, lost friends, went to rehab, etc. He really, really was a good kid, really! good! kid! but he just couldn't quit. The addiction was extraordinary, unlike any I've ever seen.

The kid and a friend had a drinking contest last Monday night to see who could drink a half gallon of vodka. The kid won. Then he threw up and passed out. They couldn't wake him up, and he was left to "sleep it off". And then he turned blue. Luckily, one of the young people who was with him knew CPR and administered it while others called 911. I only say luckily, because it gave us a week to say goodbye.

Nobody knows how long the kid was anoxic, but it was enough that his brain could not recover. So we sat by his bed in the ICU for a week and watched him go through the stages of anoxic coma death. First he was chilled, because sometimes that helps minimize brain damage. When they warmed him up, he went through the seizure phase and then was medicated through that. Next came the cough and move phase where we went through the agony of wondering if his movements were reflexive or responsive. Maybe sometimes either one. And then the deterioration accelerated and the neuro told us if he woke he could never care for himself again. And then he miraculously stopped breathing on his own to save his poor mother from having to make the hardest decision. (Yes, he is an organ donor.)

The kids who were with him that night are forever changed. The girl who took charge is a hero. She is proud, or should be. The other girl doesn't sleep or eat now. The boy thinks he "killed him" by not acting sooner but is furious, because he believes our nephew could come out of brain death. No, sorry, brain death is irreversible.

I hope at least one life can be saved from some passerby reading this.

Soooooo

Dear Passerby:

.....If a person you are with drinks so much that you can't wake them up, it's a medical emergency. Dial 911. Don't wait for them to sleep it off. It's as simple as that. CPR may not really save them. You have to help them BEFORE they stop breathing. Nobody will blame you for doing this. People will praise you. And if you don't do it, you may yourself be traumatized for life, as I suspect the kids who were with our nephew will be. They really are victims too.

Anyway, public service message. I'm not sure I'll come back and read the comments. Too upset. But I'd like to get my message, maybe reminder, out to as many people as possible.

Thanks for reading.

Update: For those unaware, many/most states have Emergency/911 Good Samaritan laws that provide immunity from drug possession prosecution for those who provide aid to someone who is experiencing overdose. This immunity, in my state at least, also extends to minors in possession of alcohol. And you don't have to call 911 to get this immunity. You can drop a person off at the ER and leave if you want to. Anyway....good information for anyone who might be in the situation to help but fear legal problems.

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Submitted by lambert on

I hate it. I'm so sorry it sucked this good kid down. How did we end up teaching our kids that "a half gallon of vodka" was the goal-line in a contest? I did plenty of things when I was young, but nothing like that.

Too bad the people pulling together couldn't save him.

paintedjaguar's picture
Submitted by paintedjaguar on

I live on the Redneck Riviera, where all the Bible Belt kids come for Spring Break and it's common for kids to get stupid drunk -- and every so often to fall off a hotel balcony. I heard recently of a way to make things worse.

I'm told that it's now fashionable to mix alcohol with heavily caffeinated "energy" drinks. The stimulant effect can act against the depressive effect of the alcohol, allowing someone to remain conscious past the point where they would normally pass out -- and allowing them to keep drinking long enough to kill themselves. I know of at least one case of this locally -- a young girl who died of acute alcohol poisoning.

Submitted by Dromaius on

It's about CPR.

Contrary to the overly dramatic television accounts, CPR rarely saves lives. Yes, it may help the heart stay beating. But the oxygen deprivation that occurs anyway will likely lead to death from brain damage, often after a short to medium stay in the ICU. Many doctors and medical staff have opted out of CPR for themselves, even to the extent that they tattoo the words "No code" on their wrists. All that CPR really does is aid the organ donation industry, a bitter and macabre subject for another day.

Here's an article: Un-extraordinary measures

Submitted by Dromaius on

Yes. The nephew's story is not gripping drama, but it's the typical outcome.

Coma is another place where mythology rules. People typically don't shake off comas and walk away like they do in the movies. The reason for coma is almost always some form of brain damage. Maybe someone can help me establish the cases where it isn't.

Interestingly, comatose survivors of TRAUMATIC brain injury have a much greater likelihood of recovery. You're better off drinking a half a fifth of whisky and then driving into a brick wall than you are staying in your house and drinking a half gallon.

The bottom line is that the damage from anoxia is just too catastrophic to survive....almost always.

Submitted by lambert on

See above!

* * *

All this reminds me of my mother's stroke, which I am guessing is another form of anoxia. Better to go at once, fast, say I....

Submitted by Dromaius on

Stroke can cause localized or generalized anoxia. Cardiac arrest depletes oxygen to all areas of the brain without selectivity, so always causes generalized anoxia.

I'm so sorry about your mother. It sounds like you had to go through this too.

affinis's picture
Submitted by affinis on

My condolences.
Yeah, that's the typical result of out-of-hospital CPR. My elderly uncle was one of the lucky ones - out-of-hospital CPR by a passer-by (when he went into cardiac arrest at a shopping mall), Then paramedics arrived relatively quickly. He ended up emerging from the ordeal fully intact (a rare outcome) and lived quite a few more years.

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Submitted by quixote on

Dear God. How sad. It's really good of you in the middle of all this awfulness to do a public service message! It should go viral. And then everyone who reads it and goes to stupid parties should feel it as a wake-up and never do dumb shit again. And then ....

Jesus. What a messed up world we actually live in.

paintedjaguar's picture
Submitted by paintedjaguar on

I believe there are a lot of things doctors don't tell the general public. My mother, who was in her eighties and in poor cardio-pulmonary health, chose to have an operation to repair an aortic aneurysm that could have popped and killed her at any time. The operation was successful and she lived for several years after that but mentally she was never the same.

Before the operation she was perfectly clear-headed and mentally sharp in spite of her age and condition. Afterward she seemed to be suffering from Alzheimer's or something similar -- she took to making notes about every little thing that happened during the day because her memory had become so unreliable. We were told that this was due to what the doctor called "pump-head", a term I'd never heard before. Obviously it was about oxygen starvation in the brain during the operation, and it's common enough that they have a slang term for it.

Submitted by lambert on

Sort of under the heading of "getting old isn't for wusses." We either need to make these decisions, or try to let others know what our decisions are (assuming the ethicists in hospitals don't over-ride them, which is another story in itself).