Today, I Watched as a Person Died
An emergency occurred right behind me
The last time I wrote about something like this was the first time I wrote as an adult. In 2011, the tornado which reshaped Joplin, Mo. had occurred. I grew up there, lived there then. People I knew and had known for decades died that day. A child of a woman I graduated with died as well. Places I had known forever were gone, never to be replaced. For several days I had something within which struggled to get out. Not knowing anything else to do I sat down at the computer and opened up a page, then just let the words come out. The result was my first work in print, "Hell's Half Hour" which was published in "5:41 Stories Of The Joplin Tornado" and also here on HubPages. What occurred today created the same kind of a hole in my heart as that day did, even though I did not know the person it happened to.
I was at work, in one of the shows on park. My radio erupted into words and static, enough static that I could not make out what was being said. I tried to understand what the person was saying but couldn't. Looking around I noticed something taking place about twenty five feet behind me, then saw some of our EMT's running toward the disruption. I made my way over and saw someone lying on the ground.
This was the radio call I couldn't understand, right there behind me.
I came up behind the EMT's and stood, not knowing what to do. Then I noticed that there were a lot of people watching what was taking place so I moved to stand between them and the scene. Other employees did the same and we created a wall of privacy of sorts. The person down on the ground was a woman, roughly my age or maybe a bit older. Her husband stood to the side with some family members. Safety arrived on scene as did security and we did our best to stand together in order to shield everyone from what was taking place.
A fight for her life took place right there in front of me as I stood still, part of the line forming the shield. No pulse was found by the EMT's so they began CPR. Her blouse was cut open so the EMT's could attach leads to her chest, to determine heart and breathing as CPR continued. Then, her chest heaved and she took a breath. CPR stopped, everyone watched and she stopped breathing after only a few breaths. CPR began again, another person stepping in to take over. Time and again this took place, one performing the procedure then another, she taking breaths then stopping, more CPR.
Then one of the EMT's cut off her bra to get better access to the CPR points, and to attach different pads. Those of us in the shield tried to look away to try and preserve her dignity but we couldn't, we were a part of this struggle with her. Another person took over then halted as the electronics told them to remove hands from her. Then, again there was movement in her chest. Her legs kicked out a few times and her eyes opened. Briefly.
Everyone around her rested on their heels for a moment, watching. Then, another alarm went off, she stopped breathing again and her eyes closed, but not all the way shut. CPR began again, hard and fast. The radio went off telling us the ambulance was almost there and where it was coming to. A sheet or towel was brought over and a couple of us took hold of the ends to hold in front of her, protecting her as much as we could from the eyes of those around her.
I know that I was not alone as I prayed for her to fight; Fight! Fight now like you've never fought before! Come back to those here who love you!
She took another breath! Then another but that was all. CPR continued, must be fifteen minutes at least by now. The show had come to a halt so the EMT's could hear the electronics tell them what was going on inside her, with the band leading the crowd in praying for her.
The ambulance arrived and these EMT's took charge, but they included our EMT's in their preparation for transport. A board was brought to place her upon in order to lift her onto the cart. I had the sheet by now, both corners. I offered it to the EMT to cover her up for transport out of the building. They took it, covered her and continued with CPR. Security cleared the way for the cart and they hurried off to the waiting ambulance.
Just before they left, I heard one of our EMT's question her status. The transporting EMT replied she was flatlined. But still they fought for her. The cart was lowered enough to allow CPR to continue as they hurried away. One person at the head of the cart, one behind, one on either side for CPR; every thirty compressions or so they would switch places to conserve their energy to be able to continue.
This entire sequence took place over roughly twenty minutes right in front of me and those surrounding her, trying to preserve her privacy and dignity. Trying to halt those both seated and standing around who were trying to see what was taking place, the ones who become "lookie-loo's". And while we did our best and privacy was supplied for her, dignity was not allowed to her. Lying on the hard floor, laid bare to those of us in the circle there was no dignity to be found in death. As they left, I noticed there on the floor a wig: she had worn a wig because her hair was gray and she kept it cut short enough to wear the wig to preserve her apparent youth to the world. Even that was not allowed, and I felt horrible for having witnessed this being stripped of her in her struggle.
I have been close to death before. I have heard the shot that ended a life. I have run towards an accident which should have ended a life but for the person involved being so drunk they flopped around like a rag doll and survived unscathed. Watched an accident take place in front of me where a van was rolled onto its side, gasoline leaking out as we tried, successfully, to get the driver out intact. Driven past an accident which had taken place moments earlier that had to have had a death due to its vehicle flying onto its side and crashing roof first against a traffic light pole. Been the manager on duty when, on two different occasions a high school senior girl who worked in my store was killed; one by the drunk driver of her car, the other doing everything she could to make sure that didn't happen to friends at a party by driving them home afterwards and then falling asleep at the wheel driving herself home, rolling her car and killing her. Even been within seconds of drowning not once but twice myself.
But this was different. I watched her eyes close, watched her take her last breath right there in front of me. Watched as the EMT's fought death, struggling to perform CPR on her for what seemed like an eternity but could have been no more than twenty minutes until the ambulance took her away. Watched as her legs kicked, fighting for her life. And even though I didn't know her I prayed and felt for her in her fight to live. Begged her silently to fight harder than she had ever fought before to live. Live! But as she left, I fear she had lost the fight.
I don't know for certain she died; she could have regained consciousness in the ambulance or at the hospital. But I doubt it. I could see in the eyes of those around her, who fought so hard for her that the fight was over, even if their actions refused to admit it. She was gone, but they still continued to fight for her, all the way to the hospital.
We take life for granted, that it will be there always. We ignore our health, we ignore warnings, we ignore our families in our quest to have fun, to work, to live. But every single moment might be our last here on this earth and we have to recognize it and enjoy it whenever possible. It's not alway possible but when it it we must. This family was doing just that, enjoying a beautiful day at our park when tragedy took place. Much like the Duck Boats of last year, death arrives when we least expect it. This will haunt me as I know it will haunt those involved, both family and my co-workers. My prayers go out to the family of this person and for her well being. I also pray for those who worked so hard to help her in her struggle; they are amazing. Thank you for doing what you do.