Monday, July 9, 2007


I helped a man die today.

Well, actually he and God didn't need my help in the dying part, but I would like to think my presence somehow eased his fear.

We were sitting in my office when we heard the first crash. Just as we got up to investigate, a white car leaped on to the sidewalk, flying past my window. We got to the door just as we heard the second crash in our parking lot. Main Street was eerily quiet as I stepped outside.

I found him, semi-conscious, strapped in the driver's seat of his car. He didn't seem to be aware of the fact I had opened the driver's side door, but his eyes rolled towards me and he lunged for breath when I spoke to him.

I glanced around quickly, looking for somebody, anybody who could handle the situation.

"Do you have a nurse there today," I called out to Lisa, who oversees a company that provides in-home nursing care.

"No, but he's (her husband) calling 911 now," she answered walking towards us.

She mouthed a question to me.

Not yet.

I'm sorry, I can't get you out right now, I don't want to hurt you, but help is on the way. I'm just going to reach over and turn your car off so you don't go any farther.

He tried to speak, but choked on the rattled sound, the color already draining from his face. His breathing halted and I stood up to look around, praying I'd see a vehicle with flashing lights. Seeing none, I bent back through the door, stroking the man's arm as I spoke in a manner I hoped came across as reassuring.

It's going to be okay, someone's coming to help. Don't be scared, it's going to be okay. Nobody else was hurt.

I prayed the man wasn't already dead. But no, there was a sudden gasp for breath and his eyes began to flutter open as he fought for consciousness, the effort creating a yellow flush that replaced the pallor of his face.

Can you hear me? Hold on, help is here, they're going to take care of you. I'll be right here.

I gave his arm a final loving pat and stepped back as a volunteer first responder ran to the car. He was quickly assisted by several more as the ambulance arrived.

The man regained consciousness, only for a moment, after being pulled on to the stretcher. The EMT told him not to worry, he'd been in a wreck, and they were taking him to the hospital.

An hour or so later an officer told me the man died en route. He said it was a heart attack.

I can't help but think the man had probably wondered why I didn't do something about that damn tightness in his chest instead of just rubbing his arm, but I'd like to think that at least he was somewhat comforted by the knowledge he wasn't alone.


  1. Holy cow, Alice!

    I know I would have been frightened, but you write about it so calmly. Do I understand right, than, that the heart attack caused the crash, rather than vice versa?

  2. Yes Kate, the heart attack came was afterwards that I didn't know what to do, I felt like I should do something, so I placed a wreath in the grassy strip alongside the parking lot. The funeral arrangements should be made by in the morning...I detest funerals, but figure I should pay at least my respects to his family.

  3. That sounds like an awful experience.It may have been an awful way to go, but you made a difference.