For a while this morning I thought I was watching a man die. Not a good feeling.
I was sitting quietly enjoying my coffee when an old man standing outside the shop with his wife (or maybe daughter) just keeled over and fell, head crashing to the floor. My instant reaction was “What should/could I do?” before realising that I was impotent. You see, I have no first aid training and beyond putting the man into the recovery position (which was not necessary as he happened to have fallen in exactly the right position) I could have done little except check if he had a pulse and, I guess, make some amateur attempts at CPR in the event that he didn’t have a pulse. Impotent.
Fortunately within seconds a couple of passers by who it seemed to me knew what they were doing stopped and then 10-15 seconds later one of the security guards for the building turned up and started checking pulse etc. whilst one of the ladies who first stopped was ringing someone (presumably 999?).
Frustration turned to concern for the man. He was very grey and there was blood coming from his mouth. The first security man, eventually there were 4 or 5 moving on the gawpers, calmly checked his pulse and I saw a twitch of the old man’s mouth as he appeared to answer a question. The longer it went on, by now perhaps 2 or 3 minutes but who knows as we don’t put a stopwatch on these things do we, the more I could see the old man slowly yet clearly moving his mouth.
His wife, or was it daughter, was there and I finally found something to do. She was clearly shocked and I decided that a chair would be in order so I picked one up from the cafe, took it outside, a gentle touch on the shoulder, a gentle “I see you are trembling, perhaps you might like to sit down” and 5 seconds later she was sitting down. I had done what I could.
The medics arrived after about 5 minutes and maybe another 5 minutes passed before the screens that you see in the picture were wheeled around the scene and the man had some privacy while he was treated.
Some time later he was wheeled away on a stretcher, clearly alive and I hope not too seriously injured.
All in all it was as smooth a response as you might hope for (with the exception of the screens, which might have arrived earlier and maybe those who tended to his needs in those early minutes did actually save his life. Because I didn’t.
I am left reflecting on my own impotence in this situation. What is the minimum that ‘one’ might hope the average man or woman in the street to be able to offer someone in these circumstances and do I have those skills. Should I train as a first aider on the offchance? Fortunately this was a crowded place and equally fortunately others appeared and did the necessary, but what if I was in the middle of nowhere and something similar happened?