28 Jul Bonus YSS: Paula’s experience with CPR
Warning: This is a true story that involves a death. Please read with caution. If you are upset about it, speak with friends and family—the more we talk about things that upset us, the better we feel.
I (Paula) was on vacation when she heard screaming from a neighbor. The screaming was intense—a deep, gut-wrenching scream that sounded like someone had seen the scariest thing in the world. I ran over to find out what was going on and stumbled upon a group of elderly people standing outside a condo staring at a 15 year-old girl who was on the phone crying. She looked at me with intense fear in her eyes and handed me the phone. I knew she was on with 911. I immediately told them my name and that I was a neighbor and that I was entering the house to learn more. I followed the screams to the second floor and walked in to what was the worst scene of my life. A woman was lying across her husband sobbing. He was not responsive. It did not look good, at all. I turned away from the woman to report to the officer what I was witnessing. I didn’t want her to hear what I had to say but I had to explain the situation. “A man about 50 is lying on a bed, eyes open, mouth drooling, grey complexion, not moving.” The 911 dispatcher asked if he had a pulse. I assumed the woman had figured this out already and I asked her. She said that she had found him like this 20 minutes ago and he wasn’t breathing. I turned again and said, “Oh, this is not good, not good. He hasn’t been breathing for like 20 minutes. She found him like this and she’s been out. I don’t know how long. What do I do?” And he replied, “CPR!”
I took one look at that grey complexion, eyes open and mouth drooling and I thought to myself, Paula, you’ve met your match. Are you up for it? I had never performed mouth-to-mouth and I was not looking forward to this but it only took me a split second to realize that I had to save this man’s life. Or try my best in the process. I said to the officer on the phone that I would and just as I was about to put the phone down a neighbor rushed in. (Keep in mind that many people had gathered outside by now but only I and now this neighbor entered to do anything.) I looked at him and I said, “Do you know CPR?” He replied, “Yes.” He began chest compressions. I thought, thank goodness this man just arrived. I resumed my role as the go-between with the dispatcher until the police and ambulance arrived. I had asked the wife to go downstairs to be with her daughter – they needed each other and I don’t think she needed to see her husband like this. Not only did I learn that mouth-to-mouth is no longer necessary, but the next moment was also a critical learning lesson I want to share with all of you. I told the officer on the phone that the chest compressions did not seem to be working. I described the entire situation and he said to me, “Get that man off the bed, the bed is not supplying a hard surface for the compressions to work.” I put the phone down, and the other neighbor and I lifted the man off the bed and onto the floor. Moments later a policeman arrived, I got off the phone and continued to assist the policeman who needed about ten things opened from plastic bags. When I saw the cop take over chest compressions I was amazed. He was pumping so very, very hard on this man’s chest. It was much harder than I realized necessary. So, please know that you must press very, very hard.
Unfortunately, the man died. He had been dead for quite sometime, but we all put in a great effort to try to help him. I was very upset by the event and want to share with you that when you are involved in something so traumatic, it does impact you more than you realize. Talk to people about it. Every time you tell the story it releases some of the trauma. I’ll never regret running into the house even though it was a bit scary. And I won’t quite understand why no one else except the other man did. Sometimes what happens is that people do what other people are doing in a crowd. In this case, they were watching and wondering. But that young girl was so upset and she looked at me with the fear of God and I knew she needed help. Please don’t hesitate to help as long as you are not put in danger.