I’ve just seen someone die. Not your average Monday morning…
I took Sam to a health centre for his Navy medical. We sat in the waiting room and a large man came in, sitting opposite us. He was breathing heavily, and when he dropped his keys, I picked them up for him – he didn’t take them straight away and didn’t seem to be completely ‘with it’. I wondered if I should ask if he was okay, but… y’know… British reserve and all that. I wished I had because about a minute later, a nurse went past him and he told her he wasn’t feeling well. He dropped his keys again.
The receptionist got the nurse… they chatted to him, asked him questions… By this time he was sweating and his breathing was harsh and intermittent. We felt like the worst type of voyeurs, sitting quietly in the chairs opposite. They tried to take him in to the doctor’s office, but he said ‘no… I’m going…’ we grabbed a chair and put it behind him. I think I tweeted that the poor man had collapsed, and then again when – what felt like seconds later – the first-response paramedic arrived.
As he was talking to the man – he said his name was Richard – suddenly he stopped breathing. All hell broke loose. Sam and I helped to tip up the chair he was in then pull it from under him. Sam looked awful and the cleaning lady took him away into her office. I was despatched to wait for the ambulance: ‘yell DEFIB at them – do it NOW!’.
The next hour was a blur of noise and colour and heat: I think back now and get little snippets: grey skin, scissors cutting cloth, meshed fingers pounding on his chest, sweat dripping off the paramedic’s nose. I fetched water, held hands… did what I was told.
And then it was all over. The second ambulance arrived and Richard was taken away – one person still pounding on his chest. Afterwards, we sat in the empty clinic, stuff everywhere – and drank tea, blinking in the silence. The paramedic said he wouldn’t make it. In public places, they tend to keep going longer than they would normally, apparently…
Rest in peace, Richard. I didn’t know you but I had a tiny part in your life.