JULIE JACOBSON/Associated Press
LAS VEGAS – He had a Las Vegas wedding to attend, but Bryan Dalia was hung over from some marathon partying the night before.
“I did two bachelor parties, back-to-back,” Dalia said, putting his hand to his forehead as he recalled steins of beer and shots of alcohol the previous afternoon at the Hofbrauhaus Las Vegas, then gambling, dining and drinking martinis at the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas resort. He remembered “getting a little lost and finding myself on the floor of the Paris” hotel-casino, then “a few more martinis as I gambled my life away.”
“How are you doing now?” medical technician Debra Lund asked.
Dalia looked at Lund, swaying with the gentle rocking of a bus named Hangover Heaven as it rolled down Las Vegas Boulevard. Lund checked an intravenous fluid bag, hung from the ceiling, dripping a saline and vitamin solution into Dalia’s left arm.
“Better,” he replied. “My palms aren’t sweating anymore. I don’t have that, like, cold sweat feeling anymore.”
Dalia, from Caldwell, N.J., was one of the first patients on the rollout day of a mobile treatment center for tourists who spent the night before drinking in all the nightlife Las Vegas has to offer. For a fee, they get a quick morning-after way to rehydrate, rejuvenate and resume their revelry.
“I’m starting to feel great,” Dalia said. “This is really very cool.”
Doctor and board-certified anesthesiologist Jason Burke calls his fledgling business a medical practice on wheels, analogous to a physician with an RV offering X-rays, MRIs or mammograms, a mobile dentist or a blood-bank bus set up in an office building parking lot.
The idea, Burke said, is to bring relief to tourists with stomach-churning wooziness, headaches and body pains – symptoms that could ruin an entire day in Sin City.
“Many people come to Las Vegas with the intent to drink and have a good time,” Burke said as he moved between patients seated on plush benches in the retrofitted, full-sized tour bus. The casino scenery passing outside the windows, the flat-screen TVs, the ceiling mirror and the aide in the suggestive nurse outfit? Hey, it’s Vegas.
“I don’t think that Hangover Heaven is promoting drinking. I’m not eliminating hangovers,” Burke said. “The goal of the business is to get people back to their vacation. I’m decreasing the length of time they’re going to be hung over.”
Burke said his goal is to arrive within an hour at the caller’s hotel.
Once on the bus, treatment can take less than an hour for a $90 basic IV of saline solution, B vitamins and vitamin C. A premium package, $150, includes two bags. For an extra fee, Burke will bring treatment to a tourist’s hotel room.
Burke administers the prescription anti-inflammatory Ketorolac or Toradol for pain and Zofran, also known as Ondansetron, for nausea. Acid heartburn can be treated with over-the-counter ranitidine. Patients get a shot of the anesthetic Lidocaine to numb the skin before the IV needle is inserted.
“For the most part, it sounds safe,” said Dr. Daliah Wachs, a family practice physician and national satellite radio medical talk show host based in Las Vegas. “But this is kind of gutsy. He’s taking a risk.”
A patient could have an allergic reaction, Wachs said, or fail to fully report their medical history. For people with pre-existing conditions, Toradol can affect the kidneys, she said, and Zofran can trigger abnormal heart rhythm. There also could be complications for people with esophageal or stomach ailments from chronic alcohol abuse.
Still, Wachs said, emergency-room physicians and clinic doctors for decades have provided hangover sufferers with IV drip “banana bags” – so named for their yellow color.
“I think many doctors are kicking themselves because they didn’t think of this first,” she said.
Burke compared Toradol with over-the-counter Ibuprofen and said that in 14 years as an anesthesiologist he had never seen a patient experience heart arrhythmia from Zofran. He said he uses small doses of the drugs.
“This is a professional medical practice. We take a medical history,” he said. “I’m not a cowboy. I’m not going to grab someone off the street ... without knowing their medical history. If they do have something that might be complicated, I’ll refer them to an emergency room or tailor their treatment to avoid anything that might cause problems.”
Prospective customers are advised they shouldn’t drink alcohol for two hours before treatment and can’t arrive drunk. Walk-ups are turned away. Pregnant females also are declined.
“If they are pregnant ... they should not be drinking to excess in the first place,” Burke declares in his business plan.
In a medical emergency, Burke said he is capable and qualified to use hospital-style “crash-cart” equipment on the bus, including an automatic defibrillator; laryngoscope; pulse, blood pressure and oxygen meters; and emergency medications.
Steve Sisolak, a member of the Clark County Commission who helped nix a 2009 venture featuring a rolling “stripper mobile” with scantily clad women gyrating on poles, said he could see no reason to oppose Burke’s Hangover Heaven bus.
“Give him credit for creativity and entrepreneurship,” Sisolak said. “But you have to trust that he knows what he’s doing.”
Word of mouth already was spreading. Passenger Cameron Byrd, a tourist from Raleigh, N.C., in Vegas for his 32nd birthday, marveled at his feeling of recovery.
“My friend just texted me and said, ‘I feel like death,’” Byrd said, before responding with a solution: “We’re on the hangover helper bus.”