I saw something yesterday that I’m sorta hesitant to post about because I feel like in posting it makes it about me when it’s not, but I watched it happen.
I saw a man die yesterday.
A young man, too. 45. I think had he been in his 80s, while still sad, it would have seemed more natural or expected. In fact, when I ran to have the guy call 911, that was the first thing he asked, "old guy?"
I had just walked into the gym. I was getting ready to get on the treadmill when I saw the man go down. He was running, and then the next minute he did a face plant on the treadmill. I, like everyone else, thought he had tripped, and I thought, "oooooh, how embarrassing. That’s really going to hurt tomorrow." But then he just rolled over, lifeless. Someone screamed "help" and a woman who I found out later was a doctor came running over from the other side of the gym. She screamed "call 911!!" and no one moved at first. I was closer to the front desk so I ran up there and told the guy to call 911. "Old guy?" Me: "No, he’s really young. From where I was standing he looked late 20s or so?" I ran back and they were still yelling to call 911. I yelled back, "he’s on the phone now!" Then they started chest compressions at about 7:44. I ran back to the desk to tell the guy to tell 911 that they had started chest compressions on the guy and that he was completely non-responsive. Then an older man who I think was also a doctor came running from the other side of the gym, saw what was going on, sprinted out the door to get a medical bag out of his car. The female doctor and others were already using the portable defib machine on the man. Chest compressions had been going on for 10 minutes and still no ambulance. 15 minutes. Still no ambulance. Finally, right before 8:00 the first responder arrived and they continued compressions. I stood and waited in view of the door so when the ambulance came I could direct them because there was no one at the front desk now. A woman asked me what had happened. I tried to tell her. She was comforting me, and I was thinking, "if I’m this shook up over him and I’ve never seen him before in my life, I can’t imagine what his family is going to go through." 20 minutes. Still compressing and defibbing. The woman next to me saw him wake up and move his head. We sigh relief. She crosses herself. Then the chest compressions start again. It looks like they’re intubating him. 25 minutes. Compressions still going. They’re trying to figure out how to keep the compressions up and move him on to the gurney because they’re in the middle of the treadmills and there’s no room to get the stretcher in. A woman starts moving treadmills. They move him onto the stretcher and his limbs flop lifelessly on the sides. 30 minutes. Still compressing. His face is grey. They get him into the ambulance. It’s still another 2-3 minutes before the ambulance takes off. By the time they get him to the hospital, it will be almost 50 minutes since he collapsed and someone started compressions. The initial doctor tells us, with tears in her eyes as the ambulance leaves that he’s not going to make it. He has a less than 25% chance of surviving.
In the meantime, one of the man’s coworkers has found out that the man who collapsed is her friend. People are looking him up in the computer to call his family. He’s VP of a drug company and Monday was a huge day for his team because their new drug is going to the FDA for approval. He has a wife and two kids. Thanksgiving is tomorrow. My heart goes out to them.
One man tells us that in between compressions he had a seizure. It was probably a heart attack that dropped him. My trainer tells us that he’s "the picture of perfect health, fully checked out." When they wheeled him out in front of us, he looked very fit. A little soft around the middle, but very strong legs and arms. He’s in the gym every weekday working out before work. I’ve never seen him before. Or maybe I didn’t recognize him. One woman who came over to me left after he did. She said, "what’s the point? I can’t work out after that. I need to go home." The other woman next to me said, "I don’t think I’m running today. But I need to walk to bring my blood pressure and anxiety down. That guy was my age." I choked up a couple of times and I felt that when I saw the woman who worked with the man, when I tried to tell her that I was sorry about her friend that my words probably rang hollow to her. And I felt like the doctor who immediately started working on the man, well, I felt that my words probably rang hollow to her, too. She was really upset, but what do you say? Great job there on the chest compressions? I don’t know. I felt like someone needed to acknowledge her because while everyone around was saying hopeful things like "he’ll pull through. Just watch." that she was the one who left with the burden of reality on her shoulders. She had just started her workout when it happened and she left when it was over.
My trainer said that this was the third time in about three years that this had happened. The exact same thing happened two days before Thanksgiving two years ago, but with a guy in his 70s or 80s.
I really hope that he survives this. I feel in my heart that he hasn’t, which I feel is probably a shitty thing to say. I’m so sorry for this man’s wife and kids and the rest of his family and friends. I hope it’s one of those miraculous recovery stories that you hear about around the holidays. I would like the story to start "I saw a guy almost die." I would like for his family to be able to get him back.
Of course this made me think of my mother who has an appointment with a cardiologist on Monday. She’s healthy as a horse, but has had trouble lately recovering from high intensity exercise. She used to be able to do anaerobic activity, but in her spin class, she can’t sustain it all of a sudden and they’ve narrowed it down to a heart issue. She can work out, but not harder than a certain rate, so I told her she better be super vigilant until Monday.
(I hate the fact that I use *I* here so much. "I feel," "I wish," etc. I hate that it sounds like it’s about me.)