It is Sunday lunchtime in Las Vegas and Justin looks like he wants to curl up and die. He has a monster hangover after drinking for two days solid. However, help, he hopes, is at hand.
The 38-year-old from Seattle is among the first customers to try out a new service, “Hangover Heaven,” which promises to “cure” his throbbing head, sweaty pallor and general feeling of death, all within 45 minutes.
“I knew I was going to drink too much,” Justin, an aeronautics industry executive, said with a fragile smile, as an intravenous (IV) drip fed nausea-reducing drugs into his left arm.
“It’s been a guy weekend. We arrived on Thursday. Last night we went out to a club, drank too much, stayed up all night,” he added, estimating he had slept for maybe three hours.
Justin — who asks sheepishly not to give his surname — was speaking on board the shiny blue-and-white “Hangover Heaven” bus, parked outside the Mandalay Bay casino on the southern end of the infamous Vegas Strip.
From the outside it looks like any other tour bus. Inside, the vehicle is rigged out not unlike an ambulance: IV tubes, pulsometers, attentive nurses and, if it all gets too much, soothing, darkened bunks.
The new service, which was launched on April 14, is the brainchild of doctor Jason Burke.
The trained anesthesiologist — who still works in hospitals locally in his “day job” — came up with the idea while working with patients in recovery rooms, after qualifying in 2001.
“Watching patients in the post-anesthesia care unit, I noticed they had a lot of the same symptoms that people with a hangover have: the nausea, headache, aches and pains, disoriented feeling, and I thought maybe the medications that I’m using to treat them in the recovery room could work for a hangover,” he said.
Happily for him, he lives in the Nevada gambling capital — internationally renowned as a center for heavy partying and intoxication of all kinds, and, of course, the setting for the first of the blockbuster Hangover movies.
What’s more, “when people come to Vegas and drink, they’re much more prone to get a hangover because of the time span over which they drink, it’s much longer and they get more dehydrated because they’re in the desert. So it’s the perfect set-up for hangovers,” he said.
The service offers to “cure” shell-shocked morning-after revelers of their hangover using a combination of anti-nausea and rehydrating drugs, as well as vitamins and other medicines.
The bus promises an “ultra-smooth ride” to spare queasy stomachs, a mid-section with four bunks, a rear lounge, a bathroom and a “private interview room for people who have sensitive medical issues they wish to discuss.”
Debbie Lund, one of the nurses — she is a trained emergency medical technician, currently doing a master’s degree — said the first weekend went well, with more than 25 customers in Las Vegas — and hung over — for various reasons.
“They come from all over the world, some of them are on business, some of them are on bachelor or bachelorette parties,” she said, echoing her boss’ -explanation that Vegas provides a perfect storm for hangovers.
“People come over on a long flight, they tend to start drinking while they’re on the flight ... so they’ve started their binge already, they just carry on once they get in to Las Vegas,” she said, holding up Jason’s IV tube.