How To Save A Life
“He has sleep apnea” she says “I guess I can let you guys take over”. She’s a little rattled, but pretty collected compared to what I’ve seen from family members in similar situations. “Ok, good job” I say to her as I hustle over to the man on the floor.
The latex gloves come on by habit as I go to my knees at the man’s side. He’s grey. Really grey. My heart’s pounding.
I’ve never been the first one in on a code, and I almost expect to freeze, as inside it would be fair to say I’m terrified beyond rational thought. That’s what training is for, though. When your mind goes blank, your body takes over.
I lean my cheek down close to the man’s mouth and nose while grabbing his right radial pulse with one hand and putting two fingers against the carotid artery with the other. I don’t feel anything on my cheek for a few seconds, and then a horrendous sound comes out of the mans throat.
My fingers feel nothing but the enormous pounding of my own pulse that’s throbbing throughout the rest of my body.
“What do we have?” the captain asks, having just finished clearing a piece of furniture out of the way.
“Agonal respirations” I say quietly, tossing him the pocket mask from my bunker pants. He pops it open and says in a strangely calm voice, “Ok, let’s continue CPR please”.
My hands are already linked over his chest and I start pumping while the captain lines up the mask. After 30 compressions I nod to him and 2 breaths go in before I start pumping again. Another firefighter from my station kneels behind me and murmurs “a little faster, buddy”.
I redouble my efforts and speed up, counting in my head and trying to stay steady as my mentors and brothers work in around my arms to apply the AED pads. As the unit powers up, everything becomes automatic.
“Analyzing rhythm, do not touch patient…”
Our captain finishes giving a breath and we all back off and watch the monitor. Something’s there. It’s not big, but I can see a rhythm in the green line. I can’t believe this. Is there hope?
“No shock advised…Continue CPR…”