I just read an advance copy of Molly, Mushrooms and Mayhem,written by paramedic Jim Bollenbacker, who after a long career as a lawyer became a paramedic working concerts in the Midwest. He has many interesting tales of his experiences and those of others covering the craziness of music festivals from the EMS perspective.
Here in Hartford we have an outdoor music venue (Originally called The Meadows, now called the Xfinity Theatre) that our company does the EMS for. It is right off the interstate near the junction of I-91 and I-84 and draws concert goers from many neighboring states. I don’t like doing festival standbys, but over the years I have done a number of calls in and out of the venue as our on-scene crews call for ambulances. There have been times in the past when we have done over 100 transports out of one concert. Our company sends out notice to all the area hospitals beforehand to urge them to put extra staff on. It’s a regularly scheduled mass casualty. Most patients are young, many underage drinkers, and depending on the concert there are also some drug overdoses. In the summer on hot days, heat exhaustion (often exacerbated by alcohol consumption) is common. But mainly its drinking. Drinking and vomiting. We have had kids so drunk we’ve had to intubate them. And many didn’t have any id on them believing if they got drunk, no one could call their parents.
I am a liberal parent, but I wouldn’t let my daughter go until she was at least 18, and warned her not to drink or take any drinks offered by others. I often wondered what the general public would think if they could see what we saw at these concert scenes: drinking to oblivion, a few young people openly having sex, people higher than satellites, pure craziness.
I have done calls into the venue where we have a triage tent and a line of ambulances rolling through, and calls in the outside parking lots where there are tent cities full of drunkeness and debauchery. The city of Hartford and the police have clamped down on the tailgating considerably in recent years. In the early days of the concerts there (I believe it was a Jimmy Buffett concert), I got sent one night for “a cardiac arrest” in one of the massive parking lots. We tried to find the call, but had no luck. Drunk teenagers continually walked right into our ambulance despite our whirling red lights. We couldn’t go more than two miles an hour through the oblivious crowd. The parking lot was like a large neighborhood with each row being a city street where people sat in couches or in makeshirts pools or in the back of their pickups, drinking, smoking, tripping. Fires burned in trash cans. People wandered the streets like stoned zombies at a crowded block party. We drove around and around and couldn’t find anyone. The next morning, after all the cars had left, and all that remained were smoldering couches, I had a vision of someone still doing CPR amid the wreckage, only now visible.
When I was assigned to an actual concert, I couldn’t take it. I think I saw the Charlie Daniels Band and the Outlaws. It was sparely attended, but even then the music was so loud I couldn’t hear my radio. Some of my fellow employees love it and work the standbys almost exclusively. If you love music, you can see all the hottest acts. Over the years the events ranged from big time acts like Dave Mathews and Pearl Jam playing a stage with arena seating and additional seating on a large lawn to multiple stages with multiple acts throughout a full day, tours like Lollapalooza, Rage Against the Machine, the Warped Tour and others. If your favorite band was coming to town, you could put in a request to do the standby although most times there is little chance for people to enjoy the music they are so busy with the medicals.
Bollenbacker came to love the musical festival scene and appreciate the party-goers as well. His has some funny stories that ring true and I found it an enjoyable read about a little known aspect of the EMS experience.
Here’s a link to the book’s website: