Friday, February 1, 2013

Burning Man Stories: Saving a young man from heatstroke


I met these two virgin burners on their way to the center camp.  I don't quite remember their names, but it was something like Shane and Charles.  They were in their twenties and dressed in classic virgin attire: cargo shorts, button down shirts, basically normal street clothes.  Somehow we got talking, and they told me that needed a place to smoke.  I offered the shelter and privacy of my dome, and the use of my bong which I'd brought along.  Shane was the talkative one, and Charles just listened and spoke little.  They were from Virginia, a culture very different from that of California.  Where they're from, any use of cannabis was seen as wrong, sinful, etc.  In my state, people are more laid-back in general, and certainly more accepting of cannabis, if not all drugs. 
Inside the free radical Dome

After hanging out and talking a good while, we all decided to go on to the center camp.
About two-thirds of the way there, Shane was getting increasingly uncomfortable, the sun beating down on us.  He showed the signs of dehydration and heat stroke: becoming sluggish and irritable, sweating profusely, and the skin of his face bright red.  Luckily, the shady circus tent of the center camp cafe was in sight, so we hustled up to get under the shade cloth.

Once there, he was still hurting, and I knew I could help him feel better.  I removed the cap of my water bottle and prepared to pour it on his head.  At Burning Man, I've learned to ask permission before crossing anyone's personal space.  "Can I pour this on you?", I asked, and he responded "Yeah, if you want."  I poured, and his face immediately showed the relief he was feeling.  Life flowing back into his face, I soaked his skin and clothes with the water.  I pulled off one of my bandannas that I had, and after wetting it, had him tie it around his neck, soaking it periodically.  This is a survival method for cooling off, since all the veins and arteries along the neck take the coolness of the evaporation, and cycle it to the whole body.  He was feeling a lot better, we hung out awhile longer at the center camp, taking in the spectacle of the colorful crowd milling around.  Before long, I left them to get some iced coffee from the bar, leaving Shane in the hands of his friend, whom I had given instructions to keep the bandanna wet, and have him drink plenty of water.  I had a strong feeling of satisfaction from having helped someone.  My experience and knowledge of playa survival just naturally flowed from me when it was needed. 

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