Sunday, June 28, 2009

Still Counting....

When you learn CPR, you never expect to have to use it. When you finally do, it scares the shit out of you.

I've taken a CPR class every year for the last 8 years....most recently 4 weeks ago. And every time, it's the same. The class doesn't really pay attention, everyone struggles to remember the ever changing ratio of chest compressions to rescue breaths, and everyone laughs when the resusci-annie doll doesn't respond to "Buddy, Buddy, are you ok??" In the end, we all walk away carrying our card that says we know what to do.

Justin and I did not laugh when the man we found did not respond.

I'm not sure what went through Justin's head when I ran off to tell someone to call 911, but when I got back, all I could think was, "This can't possibly be happening."

And then I heard myself saying, "I'm starting CPR."

He was young, something terrible had happened, and his eyes were dead. And I wanted to not look at him. I wanted to crawl into a little ball and rock back and forth and say, "I can't do this."

But I kept counting. One and two and three and four and five......

Somebody kept saying that he was dead.

But I kept counting. One and two and three and four and five.....

Justin counted, too, when it was his turn. And we looked at each other as if to say again, "Is this really happening?"

And then the cavalry arrived. The heroes in green and grey armed with oxygen and needles and people that, mercifully, wanted to tell us what to do. I have never been so relieved.

And I did what they told me. I counted slower and squeezed air into the bag valve mask.

One, two, three, squeeze.

My EMT training kept cycling through my head. Open the airway. Re-position the head. Keep the seal good. Watch for the breaths going in.

His head was between my knees to keep the position right. My hands were clamped to his face.

I couldn't bear to look at his his eyes. So I stared at his chest. And I kept counting.

One, two, three, squeeze.

Finally someone moved me aside....and I fluttered around, trying to be useful, and failed utterly to feel anything but helpless.

Even the beep of the monitor as his heart started beating again didn't ease the constriction that had slowly taken a hold over my insides.

Justin and I helped wheel him out to the ambulance. And then we stared at each other.

We tried to remember what had happened for the statments we had to fill out. We talked to the rangers. We helped pick up the disaster area where the catastrophe and subsequent miracle had taken place. We looked at our shaking hands. Eventually, we just sat and held on to each other.

Neither one of us were prepared for what we had walked into. Neither one of us can forget what happened. Both of us continue to see his face....his eyes.

In the past few days I've thought a lot about this young man that has affected my life so dramatically by dying and then coming back to life. I don't know him. I've never spoken to him. And yet I want to go to the hospital where he is and sit by his side and will him to be see him open his eyes.

And maybe this is more for me than for him.

Not because I want to say I had anything to do with it, but because I need to know that awful, horrible, random acts don't kill young healthy people.

I need to know that, despite evidence to the contrary, life is not short and unpredictable.

I want him to be ok. But deep down I know he won't be. And that's the worst part of it all.

We did what we were trained to do, Justin and I. We paid attention. We yelled "Hey are you ok?" We remembered the ratio of chest compressions to rescue breaths. We counted.

No one is laughing, though.

And, though everything is finished, we still don't know what to do.


MAC said...

Good work, friend.

Belen said...

I read this post more than a week ago and I'm still thinking of it and of you. Just so you know.