He had turned bright red an hour earlier, a frightened guest informed me. Searching the internet revealed that this indicated dangerously high blood pressure. Could I come…?
This was as accurate as most internet medical advice, so I was not alarmed. In response to my questions, he admitted using cocaine earlier but emphasized that this had never happened before. His heart was pounding, his skin tingling, and his head pulsating but he denied having a headache or chest pain. Could I come?
What to do…. Allergic reactions turn patients red, but this is accompanied by itching which he didn’t have. Otherwise, his symptoms were typical of cocaine. They didn’t sound life-threatening, but it’s a bad idea to dismiss the possibility.
I do not like to make housecalls to frightened hotel guests. Waiting often becomes intolerable, so they dash off to an emergency room or call the paramedics before I arrive. When I suggested these possibilities, he refused, urging me to come quickly. I asked him to count his pulse. It was 100: not terribly fast. I kept him talking, and he grew more calm.
A hotel doctor’s nightmare is a guest dying after he leaves the room, but dying before he arrives may be worse. It was a stressful drive.
When he opened the door, he wasn’t bright red, perhaps very faintly pink. When I took him to a mirror, he agreed that he had improved. His blood pressure was high, but not too high. His heart sounded normal. He was recovering from the cocaine.