(Monday, May 20th, 2013)

Not Everything Stays In Vegas

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Las-Vegas-Bachelorette-Party

I’ve always thought the term Bachelorette Party comes with too many expectations and too many accessories. The blingin’ tiaras, the god-awful wigs, the feather boas, the flashing buttons, the penis paraphernalia–it’s just too much. So in attempt to not drink out of penis straws and do the traditional setup, my fiancée and I decided to host a co-ed “pre-wedding party” together. Although, go figure. We decided to host it in the most cliché bachelor/bachelorette party destination in the world–Las Vegas. In our defense, we were going more for the sunshine and pools and black jack. Not so much for the boozing and clubs. But still, we’re totally guilty. Somehow we have become those people.

In planning our co-ed pre-wedding party, March Madness seemed like a perfect weekend to visit Sin City. It was my fiance’s birthday weekend, and he thought it’d be fun to watch basketball poolside and place bets in the sports bar. I happen to love the NBA, and am known to be happy near any place there are pools and rays of sunshine. So we agreed March 21-24 was the best option, sent out the invites, waited eagerly for the weekend to come and then drove ourselves to the infamous oasis in the desert. Knowing that basketball starts early on the west coast, we expected people to be boozing all day and end up a mess by the end of the night. We may no longer be booze-hounds but we were prepared to see a shit show comparable to the movie The Hangover. After all, it’s Vegas! What we didn’t expect was to experience, however, was the darker and uglier side of the city–the misfortune of watching a man drop dead right before us.

We were sitting at B&B’s restaurant at the Venetian–my Mom, cousin and four of my closest girlfriends–when I noticed three younger guys coming our way. Our table was located next to a large cutout that connected us to an open hallway. It was close to 10pm, and we had just finished eating a beautiful 5-course dinner. Through the open window I could see that the guy in the middle of the mini wolf-pack was in bad shape. His head hung low, and he had an arm wrapped around each friend’s neck as if they were human crutches. To say the least, he was in no condition to be in public.

“Oh my god. That dude is wasted,” I announced.

Those across the table from me immediately turned around in their seats to take a look. As if embarrassed, the guys stepped away from their friend upon receiving our undivided attention. Upon letting him go, the guy waivered, stumbled, fell into a sign and then collapsed onto the floor. On his way to the ground, his body naturally turned toward us. That’s when I first noticed his face appeared blue.

Immediately I turned around and demanded someone call 911. A waitress nodded her head in agreement and ran towards the back. At first it appeared the guy might be suffering from a seizure, so I made my way to the hostess stand to check in with the manager, who assured me he had dialed 911. Then I exited the restaurant and continued toward the scene. I was surprised to see one of my friend’s already on site. I had taken the only route in and out of the restaurant, which meant she must have jumped the wall while wearing 4-inch heels. I suppose that’s what nurses do when people need help. The guy that fell was laying on his back with his head on her lap. She was checking to see if she could get a pulse and an airway. Next, she turned him to the side to evacuate the vomit in his mouth, using her bare hands. He was not moving, not conscious, and looking more and more like a plastic doll with every passing second.

The guy’s two so-called friends, or men that had helped the man make it this far (as far as we know they could have been strangers), stood far away to the side confused, paranoid and baffled. Back and forth they whispered to each other, while pacing and running their own hands through their own hair. What were these dudes up to? I wondered. Where had they been? Do they even realize what is happening to their buddy? Why aren’t they on the floor helping with him?

I turned back to the stranger on the floor. The man appeared young, early thirties maybe. He had a shaved head, appeared well-kept and seemingly handsome. He was fit, an athlete even. Yet his face, his hands and his torso were swollen and turning a color blue that I didn’t know was humanly possible. From afar I saw his veins bulge from underneath his skin, begging for air and help, whichever could come first. This was no seizure. This was something much worse, and from what I could gather something possibly self-inflicted.

I turned back to the stranger’s friends to see if they were noticing the same surreal scene I was trying to process. They weren’t. They were looking at each other, pacing nervously and nearly hiding in the nearby restaurant across from the B&B.

“Shit,” my cousin turned and said to me. “He’s wearing a wedding ring.”

Something bottomed-out in the pit of my stomach. Learning the stranger was married struck an emotional cord with me. He was someone’s loved one, which meant somewhere a person would be devastated to learn what was happening—a partner, a wife, a mom, a dad, kids. The possibilities were endless. Naturally, I thought of my own upcoming nuptials—what would I do if this were to happen to my future husband? The thought overwhelmed me with anger, sadness, devastation and many more questions. How could a grown man do this to his body? Why would he do it? I’d take that healthy body if he didn’t care for it. As someone who is paralyzed and fights every day for health and some kind of normalcy, it’s frustrating to see such self-destruction. Simultaneously I felt sad for all the loved ones that would be effected by this man’s poor decisions, if in fact my recent assumption of over-dosing was correct.

Another passer by dropped to his knees and began chest compressions on the dude. He claimed to be an ER doctor. Even under his care, the stranger continued to lie motionless with his pants unbuttoned and his bloated belly exposed.

Was it too much booze? Drugs? Why couldn’t he breathe? And why didn’t his friends notice this prior to reaching us? My mind continued to race as I sat there watching, feeling hopeless and helpless. It was a scene I wish I could escape from, but couldn’t. My friend, the super hero, was committed and thus I was too. Besides, I wasn’t above this man. In my younger years, I made many poor choices under the influence of alcohol and yet somehow I had always awoke the next morning safely tucked in my bed. I was loved. I was lucky. Staring at the man before me I thought more about his loved ones. Where did he come from? Had he checked in recently? Would his soul forever be stuck in Sin City? Who was going to call this man’s family and deliver this devastating news? Certainly not the friends standing nearby. They could barely contain themselves. They had said initially “to leave him alone” and that he was “alright,” back when my friend the nurse had jumped the wall in attempt to save a life.

I sat dumbfounded and watched my friend bark orders to those around her. Her demeanor was calm. Her thought process logical. Her bravery made for more tears. Sure I knew she was a nurse, but I had never seen her on duty before. She had literally jumped into the scene in attempt to help a stranger when most other people could even stomach what was happening. One of my pals puked, another had to sit down for fear of passing out and I was visbly shaken. My nurse friend was the one ray of light shining through a very dark situation, which unfortunately was become darker with every second.

It took approximately 7-8 minutes for the hotel emergency staff to arrive t the scene and throw some emergency supplies to those aiding the hotel guest. Seven minutes is not a long time unless you are watching a man struggle for air. Then it seems like an eternity. One extra-long minute after the hotel security arrived the real EMT professionals took over the scene. Soon enough my friend was pushed to the side and ousted from the circle. She walked over to where the rest of us waited in silence, her arms held way out in front of her and covered in human bile.

“Never a day off the job,” she announced, smirking. “Where’s the bathroom? I need to wash up.”

I stared at her in silence while one of the other girls pointed in the direction of the restroom. I was in awe of her, and couldn’t find words to describe my affection for her at that very moment.

Upon her return from the bathroom, I finally built up some courage. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah,” she replied, her voice sounding a little shaken. Her eyes began to water as she looked on to the scene. I could tell she was just processing what was happening. “I just wish I could have helped the guy. I had nothing. Nothing to work with.”

Her self-deprecating comment was shocking. In my eyes she did help the guy. She stuck her hands in a stranger’s mouth to help him vomit. I couldn’t recall anyone else immediately jumping to the rescue. For that I considered her a hero.

“Is he going to be okay?” I asked, confused.

“Oh no. It’s been too long. He was aspirating, and I could not for the life of me clear his air way. His was so stiff and rigid. I don’t know… I don’t think he’s going to make it. They might revive him in the ambulance but they were still giving him compressions as they wheeled him out, which is not a good sign. The best thing that could happen at this point is that he saves many other lives by donating his organs, but that’s often a hard choice for families to make. If he is revived he is going to be a vegetable. Completely brain dead with no quality of life. He was not breathing for sooooo long. How long was it? Does anyone know? It felt like forever.”

“I think it was anywhere between 7-10 minutes,” I answered, nervously. I had never had a life and death conversation so matter of factly.

“And by the way… I’ve never been prouder of you. You were absolutely incredible over there,” I continued. Everyone surrounding her nodded in agreement.

“Thanks,” she replied, taking a deep breath. “If I were in the hospital, I could have saved him–easy. I just didn’t have the equipment.” I could see her hands shaking. I could feel my own hands shaking. “So… you guys ready to go?” she asked nonchalantly.

“Wait. What? Where do you collect your trophy?” I asked, hoping to bring some comic relief to an otherwise devastating situation. My friend saves lives. I make jokes. Those are our roles. “For real. What you did out there was outstanding. Where do we praise your awesomeness? I mean, if it were me out there I would want some kind of credit… at least a medal. What about an accident report? Do we need to fill out an accident report or anything?”

She laughed. “No, that’s it.”

“That’s it?” I repeated. I scanned the hallway to see if anyone was taking notes or questions. There was no one.

“Yep. You get no appreciation in situations like this. In fact most medical professionals wouldn’t help because they might get sued.”

“What?” I demanded. “But you…”

“I know. It’s messed up, right?”

We all remained perfectly still in disbelief. I looked back to the scene of the incident one last time. A hotel janitor was mopping the area and setting up one of those yellow “Caution Wet Floor” signs mostly found in cafeterias and school hallways. The crowd had dispersed as quickly as they had gathered. I was baffled by how easily life continued around us. It didn’t seem fair. In a 15-minute time span, I had watched a man die before me and then watched it be cleaned up by a person who probably gets paid minimum wage. To those just walking by it was like nothing ever happened. It was unbelievable.

Involuntarily I had become apart of  a moment that seemed so intimate and private. A moment that I’m sure loved ones would want every detail of, and yet in the end only learned the awful end result. If only I could push a rewind button, or have secretly followed the men throughout the day. I could have solved the mystery. Now, it was too late. The person who lovingly gave the man his ring was left to sort out.

“This sucks Jana. I’m really sorry it happened during your bachelorette party. Do you still want to go out? I’m game,” said one of the girls.

In unison, everyone shook there head yes and began offering me apologies. We had had plans to go to a club and dance the night away. After the David Copperfield show ended Cory was to meet us. Now that everyone was so somber, it was time to make a change of plans. I wanted no where near other intoxicated individuals that had potential to fall to the floor. I wanted to be in my suite with all the people I love the most.

“Are you kidding me?” I blurted out. “I’ve never been prouder to have such amazing friends. While that dude’s friends stood to the side acting careless, my friend was busy trying to save their friend’s life. Please. I don’t need to go to a stupid club tonight. Let’s just all go home and hug each other.”

“Are you sure?” someone asked. I was sure. The world might have carried on completely oblivious to the late stranger, but I am forever changed from witnessing such an event. I wanted to go back to my man, hug and kiss him and tell him how much he meant to me. I wanted to sit next to all of my friends, and tell them how much I love them and reminisce over our lives together. Watching the after-dinner horror show reminded me of the fragility of life. When Cory and his friends finally met up with us in the suite, I hugged him tightly and cried softly, something that rarely occurs for me. Most of us stayed up all night discussing the evening’s events, but most importantly we declared our love for one another again and again, and throughout the rest of our time in Las Vegas. Our co-ed pre-wedding party quickly turned into weekend love-fest, something no bachelorette accessory or penis paraphernalia could have provided. Because even in Sin City, all you need is love.

*Update: Since leaving Vegas there have been many conversations between the group of girls that experienced this horrific event. It was traumatizing to all of us on many different levels, and I’m sure some of the girls have their own terrifying version of the story. A couple of us searched the Vegas papers and online reports with hopes to find the story and learn the end result. Nothing ever came of it. I still often wonder whatever happened to the man, his family and those friends of his. The fact I’m still having a hard time wrapping my head around it makes me think the catastrophe is nothing short of a nightmare on that end. Please, please, please do not booze excessively or mix poisons and/or medications. One night on the town is not worth a shortened life span.

One Response to “Not Everything Stays In Vegas”

  1. kathy kiely says:

    wow, jana, you write the most amazing stuff. you have an amazing life and the verbal ability to bring others into it with you. thanks.

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