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one never knows

May 19, 2008

I want to write this while its still fresh in my mind… before I lose the details.

The end of the year meeting for SWING was this afternoon, reporting out from all of the committees, and deciding to fund, or reduce funding, for the program was on the agenda after the long range planning and reports. I was printing colored copies of documents and briefing Mary when we heard a strange scream, groan, and thump in the hallway. I looked at Mary, got up, and walked over to investigate.

I found an older man in the hallway outside of the Workforce Development office lying face down in a considerable pool of blood. I stood and watched as he continued to vomit and bleed from his nose as I tried to wrap my mind around what was happening. He was struggling to breathe and was blowing bubbles in the blood on the floor. I yelled to Mary to call 911, and began to try to roll this man on to his side so that he could breathe. I got him on his left side, when someone else told me to roll him to his back. I refused, knowing that he had to breathe.

His glasses were somewhat mangled, so as I held his chest with one hand I moved them out of the way with the other. I got behind him as he gagged and convulsed again. He was rubbing his hand in the puddle of blood seeking to try and push himself up. Another person in the building began to call 911, and I told Mary to call the EMS instructors knowing they were probably next door and could respond quickly.

He was struggling again, and Sandy came out with some newspaper, so I lifted his head and we put the paper under his head to keep it out of the blood. He was bleeding quite rapidly it seemed from both his mouth and nose. (And maybe more?) I tried to gently keep his head up off the floor with one hand, and hold him from struggling too much with the other. We kept placing more clean newspaper under his head.

Nurses from the other building showed up, and asked for gloves. I hadn’t even thought of that. I asked Mary to open the paramedic training room and help get gloves and anything else they needed if it was available. Unfortunately, the nurses came back and said that much of what was in there wasn’t usable as they were training kits. The man had turned blue, and while still struggling, could fight less. He could not speak (at some point someone tried to ask him what happened and I just responded that he should relax and not even try to answer.)

In the minutes leading up to this, I honestly thought this man was going to die in my arms. All I could do was to hold his head up slightly, rub his chest as I held him on his side, and kept asking him to hang in there and to stay with us.

In a few more minutes, the police arrived. I moved out of the way and they took over. We still didn’t know what had happened, but now someone had looked through his folder, found his name, and he had begun fighting again. A few more minutes and the EMTs from the Fire Department began to show up.  Everyone was asking a lot of questions, and all I could think of was to try and get the footage off of the surveillance cameras to see if he tripped, fell, or what. But I had absolutely no way to get it. We called building services to get a custodian over and ask about securing the area and how to get the footage.

I began updating Twitter as it started to sink in what was going on. I checked the call log on Mary’s phone to see when she first tried to call 911 – 11:55, about 15-18 minutes or so had passed so far. My board members had begun to arrive while I was still holding this man, so I cleaned up in the bathroom, and Mary and I moved to the meeting room to reduce some of the congestion in the hallway. I went in the bathroom to try to clean up somewhat. I didn’t get a lot of blood on my clothes – a little on my shoes and pants, but I had it on my hands, arms, face.

And then I set it aside in my mind and held my end of the year board meeting.

By the end, I wasn’t sure if I was going to vomit, collapse, or both. Workforce Development closed their doors and went home during the meeting. I got to leave a little after 3PM when the last of everyone else left the building and Mary and I could lock up. (Did I mention she called in sick today with a 100+ degree fever? But felt sorry for me and showed up to help anyway?)

David asked me to look some information up for him tomorrow for a program on Wednesday. I think instead I’m going to take the day off.

Because of HIPA, I probably won’t know what happened today unless he stops in or something. I am sure he doesn’t read this or any of my other blogs. (Heck, who does?) But I sincerely hope and pray that he is OK. I know he’s in a lot more pain than I am right now. God bless you sir.

I can tell you that I passed my review – my contract was extended (thank you).

Finally, I know one of the officers, Steve, responded when I accidentally severed both arteries in my arm a few years back. I know there are people who see this kind of thing and respond heroically every day, and think nothing of it. I don’t know if they remember their “first time” or if this would even register on their scale. I know I’m a wuss. But I am thankful I was able to have the strength to hold it together in this case. (I get very woozy at the sight of blood.) I hope I helped in some way, at the least gave him comfort, at best kept him from meeting his ultimate fate today.

I continue to have an amazing amount of respect for all of these folks who can do this on a regular basis, and return to these scenes again and again. I know I can’t. (This has pretty much wiped me out, even though there wasn’t much of me left.)

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