Medical Emergency Response Team preps for Spring Fling


The student EMTs have been reviewing procedures dealing with ecstasy and sexual assault


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MERT members College junior Joanna Westerfield, Nursing freshman Grace Kunas, College freshman Alex Yu and Engineering junior Mike Fernando simulate a emergency response scenario where Kunas has fallen down the stairs. MERT held training sessions yesterday in Ware College House in preparation for Spring Fling.

Photo by Justin Cohen


A female student is being questioned about her night by the Medical Emergency Response Team when suddenly a seizure takes control of her body. MERT members rush to support her neck as her convulsions die down. Her eyes roll and finally she lies silent.

This scenario was categorized as Serotonin syndrome, which occurs with the mixing of anti-depressants and ecstasy.

This situation is not uncommon during Fling, according to Libby Saionz — the student in this staged scenario. Saionz, a December graduate from the College, has dealt with individuals exhibiting similar responses to ecstasy during her time with MERT.

The goal of yesterday’s MERT training was to make sure MERT members, also called the Emergency Medical Team, “aren’t seeing [these issues] for the first time during Fling,” said Training Officer and College sophomore Maxwell Presser.

Chief of MERT Daniel Spielman, a junior in the College, added that yesterday’s training focused on “Spring Fling specifics.”

MERT is a student-run group of about 70 students that responds to medical emergencies on campus.

Though Spielman and Saionz said they have encountered the Serotonin syndrome in previous years, ecstasy use in general is one of MERT’s biggest concerns this year. Spielman said, “We expect an increase in ecstasy use considering the genre of music” at the Friday night concert, which will feature Passion Pit and Tiësto.

Ecstasy users tend to exhibit high temperatures, jaw clenching and thirst despite over-hydration. To relieve jaw clenching, users may be “compulsively sucking on lollipops,” carrying pacifiers or chewing gum.

Patients who have taken ecstasy can also get combative, according to Saionz.

“People don’t like to get pulled away from the party … these patients aren’t subdued because ecstasy makes them really wired,” she said.

Spielman added “ecstasy is a dangerous drug, we’re looking out for the times it would go bad.”

Yesterday’s session also included small groups that rotated through six different areas in the Quad. The groups took part in scenarios or informational talks on topics that included drugs, trauma, alcohol, sexual assault, operational information, CPR and miscellaneous equipment use.

MERT is stationed in the Quad. A hallway — that includes bedrooms and common rooms — in Butcher in Ware College House is dedicated to MERT use throughout the year.

In another scenario, College senior Kendra Hypolite lay on the floor in a common room, portraying a sexual assault victim.

College junior Bhargavi Ammu said this time of year requires more vigilance than usual because people are not as aware of what’s going on around them.

In this situation, MERT would automatically call Penn Police. “In any event of a criminal nature, we want it to be documented,” Spielman said.

In another room, a group of students acted out the response to a hypothetical situation of someone choking at the Fling carnival. The group worked to dislodge the item from the student’s throat.

Afterwards, the students practiced CPR on a dummy. The member leading the scenario advised them to inflict “enough pain to wake someone up if they’re unconscious.”

During a scenario involving a student falling down stairs, Spielman reminded members — “ABC’S trump everything.”

The ABC’s are a mindset used to remind EMTs to check a patient’s airways, breathing and circulation before anything else.

Nursing senior David Allen said, “the goal is to see what will kill the patient first.”

The session also familiarized members with equipment such as splints and devices for carrying people down stairs. These are items “we wouldn’t normally use,” Spielman said.

During Fling, MERT members will be on duty for 72 hours, beginning Thursday at 5 p.m. During each shift, roughly two to six crews with a few members each will be on duty in the Quad and around campus. “It’s very easy to find us,” Spielman said.

Additionally, there will be an observation area where a physician will be available.

During an emergency, Spielman advises students to call MERT at 215-573-3333 or Penn Police rather than 9-1-1. They will be able to get there much quicker than the city because “they know the campus,” he said.

MERT’s current response time is roughly under five minutes, according to Spielman.

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