I saved someone’s life yesterday. Or at least, I may have done. But I probably did.
Just let that sink in for a moment.
I was having lunch with my friend Simon in the courtyard of a nearby café. Simon noticed a man fall over a few yards behind me. Our first assumption was that he was drunk and would soon get up and stumble on his way. But he didn’t move. And because of where we were sat, no one else would have seen what happened.
I ran back through the café, telling the lady behind the counter that someone had fallen over. I think initially she was bemused “What do you want me to do about it?”, she muttered as she came with me. Seeing the man lying flat on his back she reacted quickly – “Pull his teeth out” (his dentures had moved forward and could have been blocking his airway), “Okay, I’m calling 999.”
“Is he breathing?” she asked, but it wasn’t obvious and I wasn’t going to waste time trying to find out. I decided to go straight to chest compressions, remembering the advice from a first aid course a few years ago that time spent trying to find a pulse or licking the back of your hand to feel their breath was time wasted.
I’ve never given someone CPR before, other than a Resusci Annie. And I never expected I would need to. But here I was with my hands on his sternum. Stupidly, I felt shy doing the first one – as if I shouldn’t be doing this, or I was overreacting and he’d come to. I looked at the man’s face. I’d never seen someone die before but seeing how he looked – so still, his eyes rolled back – I felt there was a pretty good chance this man was either dead or very close to it. My middle-class embarrassment was thankfully soon overtaken by the more important issue of trying to save someone’s life. I started pumping his chest. After five or six compressions, he choked a bit and started to regain consciousness.
Simon, who had arrived in time to see me pull out a pair of false teeth, was on hand to help me put the patient in the recovery position. Both of us had learnt how to do it long ago, but neither of us could quite remember how (although I am sure we would know how to inflate a pair of pyjamas in a swimming pool!) Thankfully, we found a way and got him comfortable in time for a nurse and medical team to take over. The chap was very fortunate in that he had collapsed near a GP surgery.
The ambulance duly arrived and by then the poor chap was confused and in a state of shock, but thankfully alive.
Having given the paramedics a quick synopsis of what had happened, we were on our way – somewhat dazzled, but joking of our relief we didn’t have to give him mouth-to mouth.
About an hour later, as the reality of what had just occurred sank in, I went into a state of shock. Even as I write this, I still can’t quite believe what happened. Perhaps I never will.
I hope he’s all right.