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At '127 Hours' premiere, another call for paramedics

November 3, 2010 | 11:17 pm

127hours
The "127 Hours" curse has struck again.

The movie that has seen filmgoers faint with amazing consistency at various screenings claimed another casualty Wednesday evening -- at the film's Beverly Hills premiere, no less. A young woman suffered a seizure about 45 minutes in, and paramedics were called to help her out of the theater at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

The incident began with the woman first slumping in her seat and people next to her murmuring that someone should call 911. A man then stood up and called for a doctor as a crowd gathered in the aisle next to her, with some passing water to the victim. The movie continued to play even as a commotion developed in the darkened theater. Most filmgoers, however, stayed in their seats, and when the paramedics arrived, the woman walked out, wobbly but under her own power.

At the screening's conclusion, director Danny Boyle rose and said the incident was the result of a diabetic condition, and that it was the first time the woman, who appeared to be in her 20s, had had such an episode since she was 5 years old. Boyle assured the audience that she had been taken to Cedars-Sinai medical center and was doing well, adding, to laughter from the audience, that "she said it had nothing to do with the movie." A Fox Searchlight executive later echoed that account.

The episode marked the latest in an oddly frequent chain of medical incidents at screenings of the film, which depicts the real-life ordeal of a hiker trapped for nearly a week in a remote crevasse in Utah after his arm becomes pinned by a falling boulder. Wednesday's incident was unusual, however, in that it happened early in the film, well before the hiker, played by James Franco, amputates his own arm below the elbow -- the scene during which most faintings seem to take place.

The film's ability to unsettle the squeamish is by now taking on a kind of mythic power: When the graphic scene did approach, dozens of people covered or averted their eyes before the amputation even occurred.

-- Steven Zeitchik

Photo: Aron Ralston (James Franco) has to sever his arm to survive in "127 Hours." Credit: Chuck Zlotnick / Fox Searchlight/MCT

RECENT AND RELATED:

Some viewers need a hand after amputation scene in '127 Hours'

For Boyle and company, more than '127 Hours' of toil

How Danny Boyle recreated the canyon in '127 Hours': An interactive graphic


 
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It could be that the woman who fainted was experiencing something medical unrelated to the film, but it sounds like everyone else who's fainted is experiencing episodes of Vasovagal Syncope http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/vasovagal-syncope/DS00806 - when you faint due to emotional triggers and then, because you're seated in a movie theater chair with no ability to fall over (so that blood can reach your brain), you begin to experience seizures.

My husband experienced this reaction during the movie THE WRESTLER. He had NO history of fainting or seizures and was regularly exposed to violence, etc. in movies, video games, etc. with NO negative reaction.

These are the 3 most important things we learned from the emergency room doctor in the aftermath of my husband's Vasovagal Syncope episode:

1. DO NOT POP A PIECE OF GUM or a mint, etc. when you're feeling "funny" (lightheaded, dry mouth) as you could easily choke on it if you then faint and/or experience a seizure.

2. If someone ever faints in a chair (or movie theater seat), get them flat on the ground and elevate their legs so blood reaches the brain before the seizures begin.

3. Of course, call an ambulance (you never know the root cause of the fainting, how serious a seizure may be, or if someone may be choking on their tongue, vomit, or a foreign object, like gum).

This was our experience in detail - maybe it will help someone out who finds themselves in a similar situation:

During the movie THE WRESTLER, I noticed out of the corner of my eye that my husband's body was leaning back oddly. I turned to see his eyes wide open, staring blankly, unblinking, empty. Appearing lifeless. I tapped him and said his name once, then twice with no response, then his eyes rolled back in his head, he started convulsing in a seizure, and I screamed for someone to call 911. He was unconscious and seizing long enough for the movie to be stopped, the ambulance to arrive, and for the entire audience to realize what was happening - it was terrifying. No one had a clue what to do.

Just before he fainted, he'd popped a piece of gum in his mouth because, he told us after the fact, he was feeling a bit "funny" (lightheaded, dry mouth) - next thing he knew he was regaining consciousness in a movie theater of people staring at him and paramedics rushing in. The emergency room doctor said he was extremely fortunate not to have choked on the gum during the seizure and the paramedics said that one week prior a man had experienced the exact same episode during the same scene of THE WRESTLER.

I'm not a doctor, but based on my personal experience, I think that casually blowing this girl's and the other patrons' fainting episodes off is a mistake and possibly one that could end badly. At least use it as a platform to inform people about this possibly dangerous reaction and what they can do if they find themselves in a situation like I did.

127 Hours of Emergency Response? Really?

As a media representative, I was at the showing of "127 Hours" in Denver on Friday night at the 33rd Annual Starz Denver Film Festival... the film was spectacular and Aron Ralston made an appearance on the red carpet and talked to the audience prior to the film. He did say that the film may cause physical reactions, and that if anyone felt sick, they should stay in their seats and just relax. Several folks did leave during the film, and I saw many who had their hands in front of their face during the amputation scenes. Of course, they were peeking through their fingers as I did when I first saw "The Exorcist". The movie was not stopped, but after the film, I did see stretchers in the theater with paramedics. I'm not sure of the details and did not see anyone carted out. My thinking is that they were there as a precautionary measure. The reality is that it was very tastefully done. Sure, I grimaced a bit, but had no ill physical reactions. Danny Boyle directed this to be "realistic" but not over the top. James Franco played the part spectacularly. My personal experience is that the story hit close to home. Being an outdoorsman and living close to where Aron grew up, I found the movie to be highly inspirational. I remember in 2003 when the story broke locally here in Colorado - I asked myself if I were ever in the same situation, could I do it? The movie is very well worth it, and remember, this is NOT a horror flick.

Check out my photos of the evening's events: http://www.flickr.com/photos/hgrapek/sets/72157625336607610/with/5156444481/


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