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Emergency room nurse says alcohol can be a killer

October 17, 2000

Emergency room nurse says alcohol can be a killer



By ANDREW SCHOTZ / Staff Writer


Teens who make poor choices can end up dead like "Bob" or "Jessica," a nurse cautioned Williamsport High School students Tuesday.

Linda Dutil drew on the horrors she has seen in Maine emergency rooms to illustrate how drugs and alcohol can kill.

Bob was 18 years old when he tried to impress some popular classmates and "drank enough to shut down his body," Dutil said.

Jessica, 14, drank three beers at another party, passed out face down and choked on her own vomit.

Wantz Distributors, Inc., of Hagerstown, a local Anheuser-Busch wholesaler, hired Dutil to speak Tuesday at Williamsport High School and North Hagerstown High School.

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"It's just one way that we try to promote responsible usage," said Eric Riser, president of Wantz Distributors. Beer is not a bad product, but can be dangerous if people drink recklessly, he said.

Dressed in hospital scrubs with a stethoscope around her neck, Dutil used much of her time to talk specifically and graphically about emergency room procedures.

When a patient has overdosed on drugs or alcohol, emergency workers give them dark, gritty, liquid charcoal to drink. The charcoal binds and neutralizes toxic substances, she said.

For those who won't drink the charcoal, there's plan B. A nurse sticks a hose into the patient's nasal canal, down to his stomach. Water and charcoal are dripped in, then suctioned out.

"Our job is to get your stomach contents out," she said.

If the patient is unconscious, the number of tubes increases. A laryngoscope is inserted in the throat to open it. An endotracheal tube keeps it open.

Students squirmed when they heard about the rectal thermometer. They cringed and gasped as Dutil described the procedure for inserting a catheter.

She later showed slides of some of the actual methods.

Dutil, 39, gives about 60 to 80 speeches a year. When she appears at college campuses, she adds date rape caveats to her discussion.

A mother of three, she said, "Parents are still the strongest influence."

But to help the anti-alcohol and anti-drug message along, Dutil recalls tragic stories of everyday teenagers.

"Tim" survived his bad decision, yet his tale was one of the most gripping.

He chugged some beers at his friend Mike's house one Saturday morning before they set out for the golf course. Over Mike's objections, Tim drove.

Tim went the wrong way at a turn and hit another car head-on.

Dutil said that Tim was upset at the hospital when he heard that his car was totaled. "He said, 'Tell my mother I'm sorry,'" Dutil recalled.

She turned and walked away as Tim continued. What Tim didn't know, she said, was that his mother and his aunt were in the car he struck and they were killed.

"You need to realize," Dutil said, "you all have the power to make good choices and no one can take the power away from you forever."

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