Saving lives one phone call at a time

Students don’t have an excuse not to help other students in need of medical treatment.

Connor Nikolic

My friend and I escorted another friend back to her dorm on a chilly night last October. On our way back, we noticed something in the bushes in front of Nicholson Hall. When we got closer, we realized it was a person lying unconscious in the greenery.

We were not immediately sure what to do. Another student walked by, saw the body and kept walking. Thinking we should at least do something, we got down and heaved him out of the bushes and onto our shoulders, carrying him to a nearby bench. I checked to see if he was OK and tried to wake him so he could tell us where to take him. After several minutes, we called 911. Soon enough, a squad car arrived to take the young man to a hospital.

I will likely never know what became of him. What I do know, and what still haunts me, is the fact that another person saw an unconscious person when we did and opted not to help.

Did others see him before us and continue on their way? Did they gawk and giggle at his body? I hope not, but I don’t know.

The 2013 Boynton Health Service College Student Health Survey Report shows that when someone passes out due to alcohol or drug use, only about 60 percent of students were “very likely” to call 911 if they are unable to wake the individual. The percentage was slightly lower for students who had used alcohol within the past 30 days — the students who would more likely find themselves in the situation.

What about the other 40 percent of students? Would they see the body, think of the context of the situation and decide to keep walking? Would they let him freeze to death?

It’s clear most people have never been in this situation, so we will never know. But it’s a concerning statistic.

Thanks to work from students and the Minnesota Student Association, the state Legislature passed a law last year giving students even less of a reason to avoid seeking aid for friends in need of medical care. Starting this school year, underage drinkers will no longer face an offense if they are seeking medical assistance for another person. As long as the caller remains on the scene and is cooperative with the authorities, law enforcement will grant them amnesty. Now, there’s no legitimate argument against making the call for a friend’s life.

The law will also change the culture. Students and law enforcement have been at odds in the past because some students believe police are out to get them in trouble, rather than prioritizing safety. Many young people may have never called law enforcement, so it makes sense why people can be reluctant about contacting them. Also, because of negative stereotypes of law enforcement, students could be scared to get the police involved and risk punishment.

The possibility of alcohol poisoning in an individual’s system is too great to ignore, and people need to receive proper attention from those with medical experience. Blood alcohol levels can continue to rise after a person has passed out, so they may be worse off than you realize.

I am not a licensed medical practitioner, and I have no business identifying if my non-responsive friends are OK. What we all can do is watch out for our fellow students.

Don’t be afraid to call 911. You might just save a life.