Image: The crowd enjoys a music act at the Big Day Out concert on the Gold Coast, January 2014. Credit: Jess Saxton.
My head hits the ground. I only recognise small glimpses of vision as my own, a blur of colour, the brightness of the sunlight outside the tent. Blackness.
I’m on the ground looking up, a full circle of faces stare at me, eyes wide and untrusting. A few arms reach to help me up, closer to the staring faces and my vision starts to swim again. We go towards the blinding light outside the tent, with the heavy music still swelling around us. Blackness.
A new face takes up most of my vision. She is close, official, kneeling by my side so I guess I must be on the ground again. I don’t remember falling this time. I don’t remember being lead into the medical tent, or falling from the chair inside, being lowered to the ground or moved to a stretcher by arms I wouldn’t have recognised even if I were conscious. I do remember looking up into the uniformed, concerned faces above me, faces swimming below the tent roof as they peered over me, the faces belonging to the arms holding onto my own arms.
As I take in my surroundings I can feel a stinging on my face. My sunglasses must have cut my brow when I fell. The first uniformed face is still close by, she is holding my wrist and talking to another uniform beside me. I’m on a stretcher. It’s sticky and I’m drenched in sweat. Beside me I can see another girl on a stretcher, no uniforms by her side, but she appears to be sleeping. Her makeup is still perfect and the official face beside me says he doesn’t know how girls can do their eyeliner like that. This one is nice, she wants me to be okay. I close my eyes and focus on her voice as I will the room to stop spinning.
Have you taken anything? Have you been drinking today?
The uniformed faces are asking the questions, and I can feel my voice moving in my throat to answer them, but I’m sure my mouth isn’t doing it’s part properly. A young paramedic takes my arm and tries to insert a needle to attach a fluid bag. He is still training and it takes a few goes. I close my eyes again and wait. He finds the vein.
I guess the fluid felt good because whenever the faces stopped the drip my head began to swim again. I try again to piece together what has happened and where I am. A quick glance around the tent shows several uniformed paramedics standing around me, talking softly and sending softly concerned glances my way.
The kind face beside me has started joking again, and my friend is allowed to come and sit by my side. She looks pretty pale too, I guess I freaked her out a bit there. Sorry.
I considered what she and I would rather be doing that morning, rather than spending quality time with a drip and a fluid bag, and where these uniformed faces would probably rather be too.
Do you get to see any of the music?
I’ve not yet been deemed capable by the faces of standing or sitting up, but my mouth has discovered how to speak again, so I take advantage of that by taking to the face beside me. He’s an RN he tells me, from Brisbane. They don’t get to go see the acts, other than listening to the muted echoes that seep through from the main stage outside. It’s not bad though, he tells me, which I think is said to be comforting rather than honest because I can’t imagine being that close to the festival but still have it out of reach. Must give you a pretty unique perspective on festivals as well, to only see the injuries.
It’s the self inflicted ones that get to you, the people who end up in here from drinking too much or taking pills. On the big three day festivals, you get a bit tired of that by the end I guess.
Yeah I guess. I’m not into pills, never have been. Always said that I’d rather see the gig than end up inside the medic tent for the day… a whole lot of good that plan did.
It took a few bags of fluid and a few hours out of the sun before the faces decided I was ok to go. Lucky for me I hadn’t missed much and the acts I wanted to see were still on. Or, lucky for me I walked away without a hospital trip. Either way, I was out of there and with near to a spring in my step.
Turns out we needed them again before the day was through, after another of our group introduced his insides to a certain something that it didn’t appreciate. He figured it could only make the day better… it didn’t. So we marched ourselves right back to the little air-conditioned village of stretchers, a route we decided we knew a little too well for comfort, and declared ourselves before the lovely RN. Slightly less dramatic than the previous occasion, everyone was upright and conscious.
You’re looking better.
Helps when the blood has returned to your face and you can stand upright on your own two feet. Unfortunately though, our friend wasn’t having the same luck with his own limbs, and was busy trying to curl into a ball on the chair beside me.
Ahh. Have you taken anything?
Question time, but again it was just a case of people helping people. They didn’t want to know for any other reason than to know how to make it better. No judgement, not seeking repayment. Just humans being humans, some being stupider than others. So we told him.
Our friend wasn’t well. He wasn’t dying, far from it, but it wasn’t a fun place for him to be. Uncomfortable. Not much to do but wait for it to work itself out. They let us sit with him, the air-conditioned hall a welcome reprieve from the heat outside. To our surprise we could even hear the music from the main stage echoing through the lines of stretchers, so it wasn’t all bad.
This time around I saw the people belonging to the kind and concerned faces I’d met before. The training paramedic who had struggled with the cannula in my arm, the RN who said he only really grew tired of this after a few days, and the dark-haired lady continuing to offer us all water as we waited. We waited, they did their thing and our friend assumed the fetal position, alternating between groaning and rubbing his face on the plastic of the stretcher. What could they do?
Needle, drip, space blanket. More concerned glances and discussion of hospital followed by muffled resistance from within the blanket. Then, he started to come good. Slowly at first and then suddenly. At first he was still, then talking, then up and walking and out the door.
We saw the final acts, melting into the heaving and twisting euphoric crowds a world away from the sticky stretchers and uniformed faces of the previous hours. We made it out alive and there, standing on the packed bus, a wheeled box of people, sweat and grass, we drifted through the darkening streets of the Gold Coast.
Crawling into the welcoming warmth of our hotel beds, I couldn’t help but think that though it was a side to the festival scene I’d never seen before and one I secretly hope to not see again… these paramedics, doctors and nurses who have given their time to us, they might just have been the best act of the day.
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