SINCE JOINING THE NSW AMBULANCE SPECIAL OPERATIONS UNIT IN 2003, GERRY PYKE HAS WITNESSED WAY TOO MANY TEENS LOSE THEIR LIVES TO DRUGS.
“Far too many times I go to jobs where young people are having a psychological and/or physical reaction to drugs. It’s certainly changed the way I approach the job and has broadened my perspective when trying to ascertain what’s happened with the patient. Party drugs like ecstasy are often attributed to youth deaths. The reality is that you have no clue what’s in the drug – there’s no label stating the chemical contents. Drug dealers cut drugs with chemicals such as pool cleaner, surface cleaner, chlorine – you name it. Many people taking drugs want to feel good, but some of the physical reactions that may be experienced – like increased heart rate, temperature and blood pressure – can actually be a reaction to both the drug and its chemicals. Everyone reacts differently. Once, I was called to a 17-year-old girl whose mother found her unconscious inside their home. When I arrived, the mother was trying to perform CPR. We soon realised she had overdosed on heroin, and we were unable to revive her. Imagine the scene now, where this girl has had her clothes cut off to gain access to her veins and chest, she has vomited on her bedroom floor and her mother is watching in horror as we try desperately to get her heart started again. When a teenage girl’s life is snatched by drugs, you struggle with it. My remaining time with this young girl was spent trying to console her mother. But what can a stranger say to comfort the person who brought this girl into this life? Nothing. I was also fighting with my own emotions, asking myself if it was intentional or just a stupid mistake. That’s the worst part of my job: seeing young people destroy their lives by experimenting or succumbing to peer pressure.”