Sirens screaming, we ran the red light. Cars stopped, necks craning, pedestrians waving, all watching the ambulance with sirens at full blast tear through the intersection. The EMT flipped the siren switch on and off to alert that we were coming through.
The call: "Ambulance 33 to Charlie Alert, we have an 11 year old with an unknown cause for acute change in mental status".
The two EMT's and I, joking around at a fire station only a moment before, were now grimly trying to figure out the fastest way to the house. Sick children bring out a protective response in everyone.
Arriving on scene, a fire truck and 2 squad cars were already parked outside, lights flashing. Neighbors peeked their heads through windows, the streets eerily devoid of onlookers. Two muscular, salt-and-pepper haired firemen stood outside the door, looking decidedly nervous... incongruous for these men who looked capable of handling anything.
The girl was floppy and almost unresponsive. Eyes closed, head lolling to the side. Sternal rub barely able to wake her. The EMT looked over at me and said "honestly, doc, since I've got you here... do you want to handle this?"
And so, I did. Airway intact, as long as she stayed awake enough. Breath sounds equal bilaterally. Pulses good, heart rate normal. Physical exam unremarkable except for some nystagmus in her eyes. Family hysterical, wanting to know if she was going to be ok. She had just come back from a friend's house. He's a 13 year old in the neighborhood who was grounded last week for drinking his mom's tequila.
And suddenly, I knew what to do.
I put my nose close to her mouth. The acetic tang of barely metabolized alcohol washed over me. I've seen enough drunks in the hallway beds - and smelled them - to know exactly what this was.
I pulled one of the police officers aside, and asked him to give her a breathalyzer before we left for the hospital. She blew a .16, twice the legal limit for an adult.
Smiling to myself, I asked her if the world was spinning in front of her eyes. "It's like there's two of you," she responded, and then promptly threw up all over the inside of the ambulance. The EMT and I rode back with her all the way to the hospital, chuckling at her drunken ramblings.
She's gonna have one hell of a lot of explaining to do when she sobers up.