Within a week of finishing my first aid course I was eating my dinner when there was a frantic knocking at the door. Actually, it was a thumping fist on my door, accompanied by a high pitched indecipherable yelling. I opened the door to find an old lady with very poor English skills reaching in and tugging at the sleeve of my shirt, beckoning us to follow. She said, “My son! You help my son! Please… come!”
Hubby and I followed her across the road, down a short driveway, through a tall, white, arch-shaped, wooden gate and into the back yard of a house. Part of me was nervous as I had no idea what we were going to find – and part of me was very curious because I’d hardly glimpsed the man who lived in this house, which was locked up with curtains drawn most of the time.
Stepping in through the gate the woman pointed at the body of a large man who was lying very still on the concrete courtyard. The fact that this man was unconscious – or even dead – was obvious because the loud wailing coming from the lady was enough to wake the dead. I looked around for any signs of what might have happened to him. A ladder? An electrical tool? Blood? But I saw nothing. The Mum’s arms stretched out towards the man, beckoning us to go over to him, again repeating, “My son, you help!”
I asked Hubby whether he could see any danger to us and he confirmed it was an empty courtyard – except for The Dead Guy. We went over to the body and I nudged him with my foot, shouting, “Hey… are you okay? Wake up!” Of course, he didn’t move.
Hubby went into the house to phone an ambulance while I rolled the guy onto his side. In my first aid course this rolling thing looked pretty easy but, in reality, it was like trying to push a large rock uphill. I pulled his arm and then I pushed his shoulder but the successful strategy was grasping the side seam of his shirt with one hand and the belt of his pants with the other and pulled him toward me.
Now on his side, I opened his mouth and looked inside. It was so dark in there I couldn’t tell a tongue from a tooth so my fingers went in to make sure his mouth was empty. Hubby arrived back just as I had him on his back again, checking for breathing and a pulse. He really was dead. No breathing. No pulse. The Dead Guy was actually dead.
Hubby had the strength and stamina to compress this man’s gigantic chest and so I showed him where to place his hands and we counted his compressions as I breathed air into The Dead Guy’s mouth. My breath filled his lungs and, near the end of my breath, the weight of his chest forced a litle out again. Then, with every compression Hubby made to The Dead Guy’s chest, the rest of the air came out again in loud grunty puffs. His loud grunty puffs smelt of strong alcohol and this was possibly the most disgusting thing I’d ever done. When we stopped to check his progress I had to swap places with Hubby because I could smell the alcohol was now on MY breath.
After some time the ambulance arrived and I sat back exclaiming, “Thank goodness you’re here!” But the paramedics weren’t listening to me. One walked into the house and the other stood nearby the body – and they were shouting to one another.
Outside Ambo: “Needle marks… right arm.”
Inside Ambo: “Yeah mate, syringe and kit on the kitchen table.”
Me : “WHAT???? Drugs? OMG, STOP!”
Outside Ambo: “No, love, you two keep going – you’re already in there.”
We didn’t keep going. We sat back wiping the spit from our mouths onto our shirts. I mean, if this guy survived waiting for us to arrive from across the road – he could survive waiting for the paramedics who were already here. Monitors were stuck to his chest and we made our exit when the heartbeat had been established.
We had saved a life and it felt good, but his alcohol breath was now our breath and that felt disgusting. Nobody told me about this in first aid classes! No amount of brushing my teeth and tongue got rid of that smell. I gargled mouthwash, ate food, brushed and flossed my teeth but the smell remained. Every time I breathed in I tasted the alcohol and it felt so dirty. And then, in bed that night, it smelt like I was sleeping with an alcoholic because it was on Hubby’s breath, too.
Next day I went to the doctor to see what sort of infectious diseases I might catch from a person who injects drugs into his arm and I didn’t feel very good about the doctor’s answer. He said that, basically, it’s better to go and ask the dead guy if he had anything contagious that we should be tested for because we had both administered CPR.
A few days later I saw The Dead Guy’s car reverse into the driveway and I quickly made my way over to ask the question. He got out of the car and rushed his house with a slam of the front door before I was even half way across the road. I knocked on the door. No answer. I knocked harder. Still, no answer. I peered in through the side-panel as I knocked insistently and he yelled out, “What the f@*k do you want?!”
This wasn’t helpful; my question wasn’t the sort of thing you shout through a closed door. I knocked again, pretending I didn’t hear him shout.
The door swung open as if he was angry and before he could speak I introduced myself, “Hi, I’m Sue and I live over there. Your mum brought me over here a few days ago and I kept you alive until the ambulance arrived. My doctor said it’s normal procedure for somebody in my position to ask somebody who was in your position whether there’s any contagious medical conditions I should know about… you know… because I gave you CPR.”
The Dead Guy just stood there, looking as if I was speaking another language. When I got to the end of my question he rolled his eyes but remained silent… the silence was deafening… but I stood my ground. My instinct was to apologise for bothering him and to turn around and go home but the defiance in me had me cross my arms like a boss and make a questioning grunt, “Hm?”
The guy pushed his head forward as if he was going to bite me and shouted in my face, “NO!” and then slammed the door shut – not very reassuring. Nothing changed in our little street. We never saw him before he died and we never saw him afterwards. I had blood tests and they all came back clear but it took years for me to feel absolutely certain that I hadn’t caught anything bad from The Dead Guy.
~ Not all Dead Guys are good people ~
(Photo source: blogs.monash.edu)