About a month ago, while riding my bike west on 1700 South, I was involved in an embarrassingly stupid accident. Somehow, my seat broke off and I fell backward into the street. It was a good fall too, a tumble that resulted in a broken ankle, an ambulance ride to the ER and most importantly, a fantastically strange adventure through what drug enthusiasts call, "the K-Hole." Yes, I was given Ketamine, and it made my mind blow chunks through space and time.—-
I've had a lot of serious injuries; a broken forearm complete with metal plates, a motorcycle-induced road-rash hand and a hole in my face compliments of some asshole malamute, just to name a few. You'd think I would be used to looking down and noticing that my left foot was twisted around my leg like a dangling sausage. "Oh fuck, fuck, fuck," I yelled. "Maybe I can pop it back in." It honestly didn't really hurt that bad, but since I couldn't walk, I figured I should go to the hospital.
A 20-minute ambulance ride later, I was at the University of Utah ER. The nurses removed my shoe and sock and it was obvious that my left ankle was ready to explode through the side of my leg. "Shit, we need to set this set right now!" yelled some bearded doctor. Believe it or not, hearing a grizzly doctor swear and freak out is a little discouraging. But, I suppose his state of panic made sense. Apparently if they didn't reset my foot immediately I may have lost it...
Everyone started hustling around the room. An anesthesiologist approached my bedside. He leaned over and calmly asked, "Have you ever taken Ketamine?" I shook my head. I've definitely heard of it from episodes of Law & Order, but they always called it Special K or Vitamin K. "We're going to use it so we can quickly reset your ankle." Among the risks, he also mentioned something about how people either experience horrible nightmares or extremely pleasant dreams. "Are you okay with this? Will you allow us to give you this drug?" At this point I really didn't give a shit about scary nightmares so I nodded, "Yes, great. Whatever. Give it to me."
The anesthesiologist injected the Ketamine into my IV. "I want you to think about a happy place— maybe a place you would go on vacation. Maybe a beach or something like that," he instructed. "Where do you want to go?" he asked. I thought this was a weird question, like something you'd hear in an ad for Rekall Inc. "How about Reno?" I replied. "Uh, sure. That'll work." He then told me to count down from ten, "10, 9, 8, 7, 6" ... I was gone.
Have you ever dried your hands with a Dyson Airblade? Well, it's sort of like that— in the sense that it feels fantastic, warm and breezy. But take a closer look at your hands, they are no longer attached to your body. In fact, your brain is no longer attached to your body. For some inexplicable reason you're now riding a comet alongside Neil DeGrasse Tyson, blasting through our solar system on a roundabout way to Reno, Nev.
I never made it to Reno. Instead, I went to some insane spirit realm. Most people that have used Ketamine describe it as a dissociative, out of body experience where time slows down. For me, this was absolutely true, but everything had this bizarre stop motion effect. Little glimpses of weird memories and pop-culture floated around space. Things I've stored away and forgotten about popped in and out like blurry collages. A butterfly opens it's wings, waves crash against the shore, an eagle swoops down and grabs a fish, I heroically punch my childhood bully Corey Clays in the stomach, it was awesome.
The whole things was kind of like that Enya video for "Sail Away," which is a song I now firmly believe is all about Ketamine.
I could hear the doctors talking and jamming my ankle around, they sounded like the adults in a Peanuts cartoon. It didn't hurt and I didn't care. I even had a thought that dying is OK. That's the bizarre thing about Ketamine, even if you know something terrible is happening to you, you just don't give a shit. In a nut shell, Ketamine tricks your brain into reproducing the same electrochemicals it sends as you die. If actually dying is anything like a Ketamine trip I imagine it must be a pretty awesome buzz—that is, of course, once you get past the bear attack or the arrow in the jugular or however it is you perish.
"Ketamine can be a great drug," said Dr. Ronald Harbut in a recent phone interview. Dr. Harbut is known as the sort of "Father of Ketamine," an early voice in the use of Ketamine in hospitals as a substitute to traditional anesthetics. "It interferes at how intense our impulses operate and in that way it reduces the amount of pain you feel. In other words, the signals are still there but it’s reduced." He also stated that the drug has negative side effects, like increased salvation, nausea, increased heart rate and if over-used, serious issues with your bladder. Basically, if you do it enough you'll end up losing your bladder and peeing through a tube into a bag for the rest of your life—I'm talking to you, stupid high school kids.
When I came back to reality a large crowd of doctors and nurses were gathered around my bed. I guess I had been describing the whole experience out loud. "Hey there, welcome back. You were saying some pretty messed up things, buddy," said a nurse. Everybody started laughing. "What did I say?" Everybody laughed again. The jerks never told me what I said, other than I somehow updated my Facebook status while still drugged up...
I was given an x-ray to make sure the ankle was set properly and a few minutes later an orthopedic surgeon comes in holding the slide, "Oh man, we're gonna have to reset this again," he said, visibly annoyed. "Ok, does that mean I get to ride the K-Train again?" I asked like a gitty little tweeker. "Uh yeah, it does."
Right before I went back under, my friend Mike stopped by and took this video of me blabbing about Ketamine:
Round two in the K-Hole was almost exactly the same. I'm not gonna yammer on about it anymore, I already did that. Just know it was like this.
Back in the '70s, Ketamine was used as a battlefield anesthetic for Vietnam soldiers, but over the years it's become commonplace in veterinary hospitals for operating on horses and cats (hence the nickname "horse tranquilizer") and of course, later on in hospitals. It's also become a popular recreational drug. A couple weeks after my surgery, I was eating wings at a restaurant in Sugar House and a random kid at the bar noticed my crutches. He started asking me about my injury and so I told him what had happened and that they gave me Ketamine. "Have you every done Ketamine," I asked? The kid smiled, "I sell Ketamine!"
This particular K-Kid was a white dude ... with corn rows, a Riff Raff doppelganger in the flesh. I couldn't imagine a better look for a Ketamine dealer. He went on about how Ketamine goes for $60 a gram in Utah and how him and his friends recently did key bumps of K while sitting in the audience for Blue Man Group at Kingsbury Hall. "A lot of my friends do Ketamine," he said. "I once gave my buddies Ketamine and told 'em it was coke. They came back and was like, 'dude, that coke was fucking crazy!" This kid was clearly an idiot, but it was interesting to hear from the horse's mouth how prevalent an illegal drug like Ketamine is in Utah.
"It makes me feel like the robot from Futurama," he said for no apparent reason, staring at his beer. Talking to this kid was depressing. I would ask him a basic question and he would ramble about things that made absolutely no sense. It was like speaking to a grown baby that just learned how to talk. I'm not sure if this was because of the Ketamine or the other drugs I'm sure he does, but one thing is certain: Drugs will mess you up ... man.
It's been almost a full month since my injury and I'm recovering nicely, however my K-Hole trip has been difficult to process. Will I ever do Ketamine again? Probably not; once down the rabbit hole was enough. I'll just say this: Don't do drugs ... unless of course you happen to get extremely injured and are offered Ketamine by a registered anesthesiologist. Then, by all means, take that space adventure to Reno.
"I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence or insanity to anyone, but they've always worked for me." - Hunter S. Thompson