Health, Life, Safety

backyard emergency



August 7, 2018: “What brought you to Almonte?” or “Why Almonte? people ask.
“I’m not sure,” I’ve been replying. “I guess it will be revealed in time.”
My experience is that “revealed in time” often takes years, maybe even decades. But hey! NOT THIS TIME! This time it happened in a matter of weeks.
This afternoon I helped save someone’s life. In my very own backyard. Literally. This is what I remember:
A new-found friend, who has had several frightening heart-related episodes over the past year, was at my place with his brother to begin construction on my new front deck.
They took a lunch break. His wife, who had made the initial connection with me online, dropped by to see how the work was progressing. Hubby began having chest pains. She sat him down on a bench in the shade, and went to get something. She came back to find him face first on the ground in the backyard; she called his name loudly.
I was in the house, but I knew by the sound of her voice that it was an emergency. I immediately dialled 911. I gave the operator my address with no hesitation. “What’s the nearest intersection?” she asked. “Martin and Wilkinson,” I said. I only knew that because I’ve been out walking in the early mornings for the last couple of weeks, and uncharacteristically had been taking note of the street names.
I went outside to my new friends; he lying on the ground on his back looking ashen, she commanding him in no uncertain terms to “Breathe!”
“Is he breathing?” The 911 operator asked.
“I can’t tell,” I said. “It looks like he’s choking.”
“What’s his colouring like?”
“He’s starting to turn blue.”
“You’ve got to do CPR,” the operator said.
“You’ve got to do CPR,” I said to my friend, his wife, who started compressions immediately.
“Do them at this rate: one, two, three, four, five…” the operator drummed out the numbers.
“One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve,” I counted out loud with her in time. My friend matched the rhythm on her husband’s chest. I started at one again when I got to twenty.
“How’s his colour now?” the operator asked again.
“He’s grey. He’s vomiting. It looks like he’s gasping for breath. He’s trying to breathe,” I said.
“You’ve got to turn him on his side so he doesn’t choke,” the operator said.
“Turn him on his side so he doesn’t choke,” I said to my friend. Why I didn’t think to put the phone on speaker, god only knows.
“I can hear the sirens, they’re very close,” I said.
“Yes, they’re almost there,” she said.
“Hold on,” my friend said to her husband who looked to me like he might already be dead. “Breathe!” she said. “BREATHE!”
I ran to the front of the house. The ambulance was coming down the street. The brother was waving to them. The neighbour shouted to come down her driveway because it was closer to where my friend ministered to her struggling husband.
“I’m hanging up now,” said the operator, “because they’re there.”
I returned to the backyard where two uniformed first responders (one male, one female), were already at work, asking questions and taking action.
Soon, a third, this one a male in street clothes, ran through the day lilies and brown-eyed Susans that separate my yard from the neighbours’ driveway.
He grabbed a handful of material on either side of my ill friend’s chest and pulled. Ratatatat! Buttons exploded as my friend’s shirt ripped open down the middle. The new arrival put stethoscope to skin.
“No heartbeat,” he said to his colleagues. “And we need suction.”
They hooked up patches to his chest. They sucked puke from his esophagus. They were calm and professional.
“Clear!” The male first responder applied what I presume was an electric shock. The female first responder fitted a mask over my friend’s mouth, and hand-pumped several breaths into his lungs. The paramedic in street clothes began compressions again. He took a pulse. “No pulse. But he’s breathing on his own now,” he restarted compressions.
They took my friend away in the ambulance. His wife drove herself to the hospital to meet him there. Her husband’s brother followed in his truck.
After they’d gone, I tried to put my new Ontario plates on my car, but the screws were stripped so I had to take it to the garage. When I got back from the garage, I walked down to the Augusta Street park communal garden and emptied my yogurt container of kitchen waste onto the far-right section of the compost.
I meandered home, not paying any attention whatsoever to the names of the streets. When I got back, I poured myself a glass of wine, surveyed the empty space in front of my house, guessed I could put a ladder up instead of steps and a deck.
About an hour later, I heard my female friend’s voice call through the front door, which I’d left open: “Susan? Are you there?”
“Yeah,” I said, full of hope and dread.
She stood in the dirt where the footing for the porch used to be, her chest about level with the stoop.
“He made it,” she said.

© 2024 Susan Macaulay. I invite you to share my poetry and posts widely, but please do not reprint, reblog or copy and paste them in their entirety without my permission. Thank you.

Want more? Subscribe.


the route may be the same, but the ride never is…

brilliant loop follows inauspicious start