Friday, October 05, 2007

Health is bad for you.

RSJS writes:

I have been pondering great imponderables this past day, sparked oddly enough by the unexpected demise of a jogger in front of me when I was walking to work on Thursday. Chap keeled over from a heart attack some twenty paces ahead and I got to him in time for his death rattle. Thankfully some passing cyclists stopped to help me with half-remembered resuscitation techniques carried out while screaming abuse at the ambulance dispatch monkeys (thump-thump-thump-breathe-what-do-you-mean-you're-sending-an-ambulance-from-Mt-Wellington?-thump-breathe), but rush hour is unkind to emergency services and between the ambo's delay and our ham-fisted CPR, this poor chap's heart wasn't pumping under it's own steam for about half an hour. The paramedics did eventually coax a faint pulse out of this cadaver thanks to fun with defribulators, enough to risk carting him off in the truck to the nearest hospital. I have no idea who he was, didn't leave my details with any of the paramedics, and honestly don't remember the names of the two cyclists who stopped to help me/him/us. Given the lack of tangible evidence (aside from a bloodstain on a shirt I used to clean up the guy's face, and blood on my clothing is pretty ambiguous, let's be honest – that same shirt now has an eagle-pattern in blood in the shoulder from yesterday's tattoo appointment for example) this whole affair may well end up a half-remembered dream as so much of my twenties are.

Okay, so that's my quite-interesting thing that happened to me this week. And when edited down to a concise paragraph, makes me sound competent and humane. And it is something that when presented in this fashion I'm quite proud of.

But what's interesting to me is how I reacted to a guy expiring at my feet. It's well-documented that people don't like being the first on any scene for fear of making a social faux pas – we seem to fear our own embarrassment more than other people's suffering. But my issue with interfering with others actually extended to wondering the appropriateness of CPR: The gent stopped breathing, and neither I nor the cyclists could find a pulse, but when we started trying to get his systems moving again I had the quite vivid thought "Is this proper? Is this how one should treat a perfect stranger? Just start pounding on his chest and blowing down his throat?" I actually looked at him and hoped he would ask for assistance, so that I would feel comfortable invading his private little walk-towards-the-light moment. No request was forthcoming of course, and so the next fear: being th' dude who just watches someone die and gets maligned in the media for being heartless kicked in, and on with the tit-punching.

The other thing I remember was my initial reaction to seeing the chap, well decked out in running gear, his Italian spectacles cracked on the ground nearby, was that he was a retard. A voice in the back of my head screamed "Down's Syndrome!" and it has been bugging me why I'd think that. And it finally clicked into place: it was his expression, the eyes rolling and dilated looking for all the world like those of a dog fearful of a beating. An expression of animal fear as his body betrayed him. That and his tongue pressed up against his teeth gave him the appearance of someone lacking all higher brain function. I know this sounds harsh but it's true: as this guy kicked off there was no indication of intelligent concern in his eyes, just a base mammalian horror. And I wondered what he saw: his eyes were on me but could he see me? It was bright enough for me to have aviators on, but his irises were fully overrun by his pupils, no wonder people might see walking into a white light...

Which brings me to the next point, does he remember me? I don't know who he is, I might never unless I ring around local hospitals and I don't know I'd benefit from that. But does he remember someone calling to him, asking sir if sir is having an asthma attack? Does he remember the paramedics and the squeeze-my-hand routine? (which elicited no response, but at that point it was the least of their worries – guy's system was so shut down they couldn't even find his veins, which made for a gruesome game of pin the tail on the donkey with a drip) I wonder how one appears to someone whose mind is going to mush, eyes on stalks and soaking up the sunlight, a stranger over you offering assistance – what did I look like? Alien? Angel? Devil? Or was he checked out at that point and having the internal monologue some neurologists think occurs as the body collapses? I guess the metaphysician in me wants to ask him what he saw, what was he looking at, but it's bad enough being the total stranger huffing into his gob and thumping him in the middle-aged spread, but discussing eternal mysteries with him? That just seems... rude.

Anyway, that's what has been giving me pause for thought this week. For those wondering yes, I'll go back to bitching about stuff shortly. As you were.

1 comment:

David S. said...

"And when edited down to a concise paragraph, makes me sound competent and humane."

First time for everything?