Sill Soldiers get 'Dose of Reality'
April 14, 2011
FORT SILL, Okla. -- Shows like "Grey's Anatomy" and "House" give viewers a fictional glimpse into medical rooms. Linda Dutil gives Soldiers and others a "Dose of Reality" as she shares her experiences as a real emergency room nurse, specifically dealing with patients of substance abuse.
"A teenager came in after he took ecstasy," said Dutil. "He and his friends were near a railroad track, and they were fooling around doing that thing where you hop on hop off, hop on, hop off. Well he missed."
Dutil said when she saw him in the E.R. both his left arm and leg were in a bucket of ice after the train hit him. They were not able to reattach the limbs.
"I am not here today to lecture. I am not here today to tell you what to do," Dutil told an audience of Soldiers in Sheridan Theater April 7. "What you do with your body and your life is your choice."
She started sharing her experiences across the nation after a sheriff's deputy told her a school had three teenage girls who overdosed. They all survived, but it became a running joke within the school, "Sally got her stomach pumped." So the deputy asked her to come in and show them what happens when someone makes that kind of choice.
Staff Sgt. Michael Rowson, Headquarters Detachment, Fires Center of Excllence Directorate of Training Doctrine and Staff Sgt. Patricia Licon, 77th U. S. Army Band, helped her demonstrate the process.
Dutil said when a patient comes in with a drug overdose or alcohol poisoning the doctor chooses a plan of action depending on how serious the situation is. Plan A involves drinking two cups of activated charcoal to get the substance out of the patient's system. Plan B involves putting a thick tube into the patient's mouth or nose to extract the stomach's contents.
"While this tube is in your throat we ask you to take a drink of water with a straw and when you do that and you make that gulping sound, gulp, gulp. Then we give the tube a shove. And we push until it gets into the stomach," said Dutil.
"Now Rowson, are you ready'" Dutil asked. Joking of course, but then she proceeded to explain how a bag of water is connected to the tube to flush out the stomach and then the contents are sucked out. The process is repeated until the tube runs clear.
After all is said and done, the tube is then filled with activated charcoal.
"It's liquid. It's thick. It's black. It's really gritty. It's kind of like having a milkshake with no flavor and throwing in some beach sand, driveway gravel and you have to drink it," said Dutil.
Dutil said the charcoal neutralizes the substance they've taken then collects it up like a magnet and helps it to pass quickly out of their body.
She showed pictures of an actual patient getting their stomach pumped displaying the messy aftermath. Dutil said often the patients are strapped down because when they are in that not-so-clear state of mind they aren't the most willing to participate.
Rowson admitted afterwards even though he knew she wasn't actually going to pump his stomach, the thought alone was enough to turn his stomach.
Dutil went on to share before and after shots of people who are addicted to drugs like heroin, methamphetamines, crack, cocaine or a combination.
Strong Soldiers gasped as they watched the transformation of the people's faces. The healthy photos turned into what looked like month-old pumpkins that had been carved out for Halloween.
The Soldiers let out more sounds of disgust when Dutil also showed real photos of how drugs destroy someone's mouth.
"These drugs make your mouth dry, super dry. Well, if your mouth is dry, you have no saliva which contains enzymes to kill bacteria and it's the bacteria that causes tooth decay," said Dutil.
She said other factors like poor hygiene and nutrition add to the tooth decay, but were all a result of that person's choice to do drugs.
Dutil said in the emergency room, it was the hardest to see a person die of alcohol poisoning or a drug overdose. Two situations that are completely avoidable
"I thought it was a very good message. It came from a different perspective that we're not used to," said Rowson.
Dutil posed the theoretical question about whether or not a person would think twice about helping their friend if they were in trouble from abusing a substance. The answer in everyone's mind would be yes, but she said in reality, other fears like the friend getting mad at them or getting them into trouble might stop that person from getting help.
"People ask, how do I know when to get them help'" She went on to list some medical symptoms that would alert them to action. Like the person constantly vomiting or having really shallow breathing. But, she said there is one very easy way to know when to call for help.
"I think the best indication that it is time to call for help for your friend is the fact that you have asked yourself that question," said Dutil.