Meet John: a former boarding school valedictorian who graduated cum laude with a 4.0 GPA. He was president of his senior class, captain of both the soccer and crew teams and wanted to row at an Ivy League in college. When his plans to row fell through, he decided to study at the University of Virginia — a 'Public Ivy,' as they say. He was on top of it all: smart, social, successful and heading to a great school. Some would say he was the perfect student.
Most students at the University can probably relate to at least part of John's high school history. Many students can probably also relate to parts of John's college experience or know someone who can — and that's the concerning part. His story goes something like this:
John moved into dorms. He met lots of new people — mostly first-years, but some older. He went to Block Party and over-indulged. He liked it. He started going out even more, and soon he was partying pretty often.
He ended up in the hospital within his first few weeks on Grounds with alcohol poisoning. One minute he was taking shots to celebrate a decent passing grade on a psych exam, the next he was staring at a stark white ceiling. Everything smelled sterile. His eyes needed time to adjust to the bright lights above. He didn't know where he was.
His body was covered in blood and dirt — he could smell his own throw up. He must've fallen somewhere along the way. He must've puked, too.
Strange faces were buzzing about, he saw nurses checking in on patients, doctors conversing with one another. He was in the hospital. But police officers were there too, all around him. Why? He turned to see his sister by his side, finally a familiar face.
She explained everything.
Friends had called an ambulance for John after a University police officer had found him passed out on the sidewalk outside of a fraternity house just off Rugby Road. That's how he had ended up here, on a stretcher in the hallway of the U.Va. Emergency Department.
When he got to the hospital, he'd swung at the doctor, hence all the police officers. But he was too wasted to remember. He'd gone through the gamut of emotions — from angry and irritable to sad and emotional — but didn't recall any of it. It wasn't until other people told him about his night that he was able to piece it all together after a few days.
"I went home for a week. My parents didn't know what to do with me — all these guys [at UVA were] telling me it happens to everyone and not to worry — but I was super embarrassed by it," John said. "So I took a few weeks off, and then football season started and I found myself drinking again at a tailgate."
The hospital trip was scary for a second, but was soon forgotten. Alcohol poisoning might've deterred some, but not him — not here. His family was worried but his friends assured him he was fine. It's normal. Lots of people end up in the hospital, especially first year.