Saving someone's life and getting some perspective

I actually don't know if i saved someone's life yesterday, possibly,... maybe...
At the very least it is a catchy title. The experience that prompted me to write it was definitely interesting and eye-opening for me.

I was going to meet my best friend in front of his house. We had an appointment to go to a Jam session together.

I had just gotten my bike out of storage and had almost biked of when one of my neighbours spoke out softly from his open doorway "Could you help me?" I reacted a bit annoyed, since i was running late and didn't want to let my friend wait in the cold. I assumed (there were some items in front of his feet) he needed me to carry his shopping or something of that nature. As i found out to my surpise and embarresment he was having a heart attack.

I actually know this neighbour a little. We once had a very friendly conversation on his doorstep. He is a nice, surinami man of 55. He is also rather overweight.

Obviously, as soon as i learned what he needed help with, i did my best to aid him. He asked me to call an ambulance on my mobile as his own mobile phone had broken a few days ago.

I called the 1-1-2 number, they asked me some questions (age, medical history and location) and then said they would be right over.

After that we slowly made our way inside his home and to his armchair. Strange enough i was very calm and relaxed by the side of this man who might be dying. And only three minutes before i was a bit stressed about being late to an appointment...

Anyhow, i talked to my neighbor, asking a lot of questions. About his age, about his family, his medical history, his housing situation. Anything really. I was trying to get him to relax and to reassure him by speaking calmly of mundane things. Often i had to speak for him/guess the answers a little since replying in longer sentences was taxing for him. During some of our interaction he held my arm. Of course he was very distraught and afraid, he had severe chest pains, was very short of breath and had trouble walking the 4 meters to the couch. From what he told me it turned out it was his third heart attack and the second time he would be rushed to hospital by ambulance. I felt sorry for him.

The only thing that did rattle me is that i suddenly realized that if he developed cardiac arrest i would not know how to re-animate him. I have never done a first aid course although i often thought about it. I will definitely remedy that in the near future. I would have felt like horrible if had he died when a simple technique might have helped him.

The ambulance and two paramedics arrived after about 5 to 10 minutes. Immediately they hooked him up to a lot of equipment. To his thumb they connected to a type of notebook heart monitor. A printer spat out continues data about his heart beat and rate. They put a needle in his right hand and administered some medicine. They also had some "suction cups" on his chest.

They asked me questions. I told them all i knew. Then they asked me to fetch his medicines (he had told me they were in his kitchen) and read out the labels to them. To my surprise he had -literally- twenty different boxes of pills on his counter. I felt even worse for the guy, although of course i did not show it. I did not think pessimism or overt pity would help at this stage. I took all the medicine boxes and read out the names.

After checking their computer's data and asking questions they decided to take him to the same hospital where i once got sterilized.

My neighbor whispered a phone number that i should call to inform his son-in-law and asked me to take his house key out of his pocket, turn out the lights and lock his house. I did.

Then they rushed off.

I was quite surprised by the demeanor and tone of the paramedics. Don't get me wrong, i was ever so happy when they arrived and thankful for what they did. But, they talked to him like he had been a very naughty boy. I suppose maybe he had...
Maybe he had not taken care of himself, but maybe it was not something he could easily help. I guess it is just a mannerism they are taught in order to best deal with the situation. Fair enough.

Ironically the huffy paramedics were nearly as overweight as their patient was. You'd think they'd know better.

This experience most certainly put some things in persceptive for me. It reaffirmed what my true priorities are/should be: taking care of myself and helping others. All the rest is, well,.. the rest.

The whole thing also made me even more happy that i decided to eat better only 10 weeks or so ago. Since then i have lost 10 KG (i am almost back at my optimum weight) started jogging and cycling lots and consequently am in the best shape of my life. Just two days ago i also started lifting a little weights. Not to get really big or anything, just to get in even better shape. Feels really good. I don't want to be a fat at 40 and a heart patient at 55. Forget that!

12-04-04 Update: Yesterday evening his daughter came by and picked up his house key. She told me he was doing better but had been in a coma for the first 4 days! I hope he gets well again soon.