Monday, November 7, 2011

So Much Blood

As promised in my previous post, here is a story from the last time I asmed.  And in case the title isn't a warning, this post considers mention of things that may make squeamish people...well, squeamish.

We had a high schooler on the crew along with us college students.  He was a really sweet kid, competent, learned quickly.  In the play, we had a fight scene that involved thick wooden dowels, and despite how many times we had warned the two actors, they kept hitting too hard and breaking the dowels.

We were in between fight call and house opening on opening night and one of the dowels had cracked, so we had to remove the tassel from the old dowel and put it on the new dowel.  It was stuck on there really thoroughly and I had things to do, so I gave the high school kid, Nate, my unused (very sharp) knife and told him what to do.  I was working on taping an actor's ankle (she had sprained it (we had a lot of injuries because the show was very physically intensive)) and Nate came up to me and said, "Kaylee, I'm bleeding."  I told him I would get him a bandage in half a second as soon as finished.  He told me that would be fine and I finished up and grabbed my first aid kit.

I turned to Nate.  He was standing in front of the sink holding a finger that was gushing blood.  I remember my eyes widening. "Oh.  You're BLEEDING." I said and grabbed bandage and frantically unwrapped it.

"Kaylee, it's hurts."  Nate said.  "It hurts so much."

"It'll be okay.  Here, I have a bandaid." And I wrapped the bandaid around his finger and heard him sigh in relief, but I immediately realized it wouldn't be enough.  I started unwrapping another bandaid while I got on headset (thank god we had wireless) and let my sm know about what was happening.  She immediately took care of keeping the actors and crew out of the way so they wouldn't panic.

"Beth, go get George (our technical director)."  I told the stage manager, knowing that he was still hanging around since it was opening night.  I got the other bandage on Nate's finger and realized he had no color in his skin at all.  The other asm hung around, not knowing what to do.  "Get orange juice (which I had bought for my sm as a joke for opening), it's back by the booth"  I told her, realizing that he was going into shock

"Nate, it's okay.  I'm going to wrap your finger in gauze, I told him."  He nodded and I started wrapping his finger, the old bandage sliding everywhere, totally soaked through with blood.  Suddenly his eyes rolled back in his head.  My technical director came running and we caught him as he fainted and eased him down to the ground.  In retrospect, we should have gotten him sitting so much sooner, but I was so caught up in trying not to panic and trying to get the bleeding to stop.  His eyes fluttered open and George and I both breathed a breath of relief.

We finished wrapping Nate's finger in gauze and George told our director (who was still  around) to call 911 and tell them that we needed the paramedics.  He immediately got on the phone with him.

"Where the fuck are the rubber gloves?" George asked angrily, rifling through the first aid kit provided by the theatre.

"Here," I said, grabbing a pair for myself and a him from my own kit.  I should have put on rubber gloves sooner, but what I realized in this incident?  That all of the safety precautions that you're warned about are very important, but preventing a person from bleeding out immediately is more important.

In the meantime, Beth and I were explaining to George what had happened and one of our actresses comes up to check her props (as she was supposed to do).  She froze, her eyes wide open, her mouth agape slightly.  I looked at Beth and then back at the actor.  "Rebecca, go back to the dressing rooms and don't let anyone come up, okay?"  I told her and followed her down to the dressing rooms (which were down a level).

"I can help, I have first aid training," Rebecca offered.

I took a deep breath.  "No, thank you though.  We have it under control and we need you to focus on acting.  What I need you to do is keep anyone from going upstairs, okay?"  She nodded and I made the announcement that we were running behind and that everyone would need to stay down in the dressing rooms until we told them otherwise and that they could check their props then.  I think there must have been something about my tone because all I got was nods from our cast and not one of them budged in the succeeding time, an impressive feat with a cast of 30+ college students.

When I got back upstairs Beth called to me.  "Kaylee, go tell the house manager a simplified version of what's happened and tell them that we'll need to hold house."

I walked to the front of the house.  "We'll need to hold house.  One of the technicians has had an accident.  I want you to know that the paramedics will being coming, so please keep the audience calm."

I vividly remembering the house manager gulping and nodding her head.  I headed back to backstage and the director was looking for me.  "Kaylee, do you know anything about Nate's personal information and background?"  I nodded and gave him everything I knew.  "I'll need to call his mother," my director told me and I got his mother's number from a very shaky Nate.

By this time, the paramedics had arrived, and they of course entered through the lobby and the house, causing a big stir from our audience members.  They looked at Nate and told us to get a blanket and more orange juice and that he was in shock.  I knew where a blanket lived in the dressing rooms, so I grabbed it, needing all my will to move normally in front of the actors.

The paramedics draped Nate in the blanket and told us that he was actually fairly stable.  Our efforts with the gauze had stopped the bleeding.  They asked when his mother would be here and we told them she would be here momentarily.  George designated someone to go out and watch for Nate's mother, and then the paramedics informed us that if we wanted, Nate would be allowed to drive with his mother to the hospital where he would get stitches.  Nate said that he really would prefer to go with his mother than they nodded and said that they would be going and left us with instructions about how to look after him.

The paramedics left and we got Nate into a sitting position in a chair, which was significantly more comfortable than the cold concrete ground.  His mother came and a few of people helped him walk out to the car.  I looked down a my gloved hands, the latex (need to get nonlatex gloves) was speckled with blood and I asked Beth for a bag, took my gloves off the way they taught me in first aid, put them in the bag, and dumped it in a trash can.  George did similarly and then he hugged me.  This very tough, gruff, tactless man hugged me and he was shaking.  Shaking as hard as I was.  "I have EMT training and I hate experiences like that, I hate them so much.  They just make me shake."  He said.

I agreed fervently.  "George?"  I asked.  "Should I not have given him the knife?"

"No, you did what you were supposed to.  He was part of your crew, they should be able to handle knives. Things like this can happen to anyone."  He assured me, and I let out a breath I had been holding.

One of the crew had mopped up the blood and Beth asked me to let the house manager know that she could open the house.  We opened only five minutes late.  The whole thing had only taken twenty minutes.  After I talked to the house manager, I looked down at my hands and ran to the restroom, letting warm, soapy water wash over them, washing the blood from the experience away.  I went back to the theatre, we made adjustments to the scene changes so we could do them without Nate and the show went flawlessly.

Nate came back two days later with a heavily bandaged thumb, but did his work as usual.  We filled out an incident report and things went back to normal.  At the end of the run, when his bandaging was significantly less, he showed us the slice he had made.  He had almost taken off the pad of thumb and managed to do it in a way that they couldn't even stitch it up.

And you know what?  To this day only two of our actors know what happened to Nate that opening night.  One was Rebecca and the other had been texted by nervous friends in the audience about the paramedics.  Luckily she had the sense not to say anything to anyone other than stage management.

Note: I am shaking just writing about what happened that day.

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