Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Meditations on Mardi Gras

Mardi Gras is finally over, thank goodness. The exuberant celebration may be loved by participants, but for the local emergency department, it is a busy 14 days. In fact, in the many cities along the Gulf Coast that celebrate Mardi Gras in a big way, emergency department physicians believe that working during Mardi Gras is worse than working New Year’s Eve or the Fourth of July. At least those celebrations are limited to one night.

Mardi Gras as we know it today evolved from a pagan celebration dating to the Second Century. Altered by the Roman Empire and adapted by the Christian church, the celebration of Spring Carnival was well established in Europe in the Middle Ages. Scholars dispute the exact date of the appearance of the Mardi Gras celebration in the Gulf Coast region, but one thing is certain. Mardi Gras was a staple of mid-nineteenth century life along the Gulf Coast, and continues to be a major celebration today.

This is what happened last weekend. A young lady watching the parade Saturday night was “accidentally” stabbed in the neck. Two of her friends, believing they could drive to the hospital faster than EMS, applied pressure to the wound and loaded her in the car. In her haste to get to the hospital, the driver failed to obey traffic laws, and struck another vehicle head on at about 70 miles per hour. Both cars rolled off the roadway. The oncoming vehicle contained five young adults, all inebriated and all without seatbelts. They were all ejected from the vehicle as it rolled over and over. All 11 were brought to the emergency department, tying up four ambulances in the process. Four people were admitted to the ICU. The young lady with the stab wound went to the OR. Most of the others were admitted to the trauma service.

In the meantime, one of the floats in the parade struck a parked truck, injuring the occupant. Two children were struck with flying beads and sustained corneal abrasions. Four young men were assaulted. Another young man passed out and sustained lacerations to the face when his beer bottle broke during the fall. Seventeen people sobered up in the ED after indulging in alcohol and/or recreational drugs.

This is the body count at one hospital from one night of Mardi Gras.

After two weeks, I’ve never been so happy to see Ash Wednesday.
Photo by Angela Gardner

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