Friday, June 9, 2017

First Responder by Default

An event over Memorial Day really shook me up a bit. I participated in a mass out at the local cemetery affiliated with my religion and then went down to the club for some coffee, donuts and a bit of socialization. I spent quite awhile socializing while I downed my donut and juice but eventually the people I was talking too had to leave. The other tables were all lost in their group conversations however the manager of the club was sitting all by himself.

The manager of the club is kind of an odd duck. His wife died a handful of years ago and he has kind of went downhill since. His personal appearance is what I would consider a bit wild and disheveled in appearance, he definitely never pursued higher education or even graduated high in his class and one doesn't have to do much when having a conversation with him because he does most of the talking. Most of the others avoid him but over the years I've found him to be quite affable despite his appearance and quirks and I have made a point of befriending him. On this Memorial Day, he looked like he really needed a friend so I sat down at his table and struck up a conversation.

Axel, (not his real name) recently lost his car to a fire that began as he was driving it. It burnt clear to the ground and due to his financial position in life, he didn't have any insurance on the car nor does he have the money to replace it. We talked about trying to find another car he could afford to replace it when he started become withdrawn (totally not his style) and pale. I finally asked if he was feeling okay to which he replied no. He said his chest was really hurting him.

Axel is not really what I would consider a healthy person. After his wife died he had immersed  himself into drinking and has always been a smoker. Judging on what I have seen being around him as one of his employers to run our club, his diet is also quiet lacking and mostly consists of drive thru food or junk food found at the local gas station or pub. So when he said he was having chest pains, my thought immediately turned to a possible heart attack in process.

I immediately offered to drive him to the emergency room but he was wouldn't have anything to do with it since he said he didn't have insurance and couldn't afford it. He got up and decided to go to the restroom and I knew I had to wait to make sure he didn't keel over in there. After ten minutes I was just about ready to go check on him when Axel came out and sat back down. Immediately he started saying his lower back and neck were hurting along with his shoulder. I asked him if he wanted me to call 911 and again he refused.

Within a minute, he announced that he was getting down on his hands and knees and I got up and started around the table but before I got around, he was already on the floor and was crying out 'help me' over and over. I pulled out my cellphone and called 911. About that time that I hung up with them, others noticed what was happening and immediately rushed over. Axel was still consciousness but was in obvious pain that was still spasming. Within three minutes, first responders from the fire station were coming in and took over the situation. The ambulance arrived a couple minutes later while we were dragging tables and chairs out of the way for a stretcher to get in with ease.

In the end, they had to muscle Axel off the floor and onto the stretcher and after some questions to me about what had led up to this event thus far, they were out the door and gone. I stayed behind to clean up the club and lock it up and then went home myself. Later towards evening, I figured that Axel would be stabilized by now and called to find out his room number so I could go see how he was doing since he didn't really have much in the way of family around. They didn't have any record of him. I figured the options at that point were that he had been transferred to another facility or morgue or had been discharged. I called another board member and they had just been informed that he was back home and was resting.

The next morning, I swung by the club and saw the back door was slightly ajar so I went in and found Axel sitting in the very seat he had been sitting in the night before. He definitely looked alive and much better than when I had last seen him the day before. I learned that he had an acute gastritis attach and not a heat attack. That sounded much better to me than what I had been fearing. I was also happy to learn that when he said he didn't have insurance the day before, he meant that all the paperwork had burned up in his car fire and that he was still insured through the ACA. He may also be insured through worker's comp through the club but not being an insurance expert, I don't know for sure. Regardless, Axel was back at work and looking a lot better. Still, since it was the first such episode where I've called 911 for a specific individual, (I've called it for a traffic accident I witnessed once on an interstate), I find I'm still shook up a bit as I write this. I'm glad that I was there and able to help him since he has no recollection of the event after coming out of the restroom. It could have been a lot worse.


Kelly said...

Geez.... that's a scary story! I'm glad you were there to help him! (and I'm glad he's okay since I was afraid you were leading up to his death)

I've only called 911 once - to report an incident on the highway involving a dump truck.

kymber said...

Ed - you'll be feeling a little shaky for a few worries, it's normal. we were at a dance one night and saw a friend running out the door and got in his truck and took off. a bunch of us followed with 2 first responders. they knew i had military training and had just updated my St. John's course, so they had me in the room where a lady friend of ours had fallen out of bed. we were doing resuscitation in turns until the ambulance got there about an hour later. we knew pretty quickly that she was dead but we kept trying. it was heartbreaking. we knew this lady and we knew the rest of her family. her sister treats us like gold to this day because while i was with the first responders, jambaloney was making her sisters tea. it took a good week i would say before we could shake it off. it's actual shock to your system. give yourself a few days to get over it, k?

sending much love! your friend,

Ed said...

Kelly - That was the second time I've called 911. The first time was when a car coming in from on on ramp on a freeway tried to merge to the far left across three lanes of traffic with cars in all three. Fortunately I was a ways behind but it was kind of eerie seeing multiple cars spinning this way and that up ahead and one of them ended up piling into the center concrete divider. All were okay and of course the offending car never stopped and I, the only witness that stayed to provide a statement was way too far away to see the license plate number.

Kymber - I was just glad I didn't have to do chest compressions. That probably would have scarred me for awhile!

Vince said...

I think there's a point when you simply call 911 regardless of what the person says. Still you have to say he probably could do with a bit of therapy to overcome/survive his losses. Usually a group is set up to help those like him with mutual aid where and when professional CBT or other therapy is unavailable.

sage said...

Scary--it's also an uncomfortable position to be in when you think someone needs to go to the ER and they refuse. It would also be scary if that attack occurred while you were driving him to the hospital, but it would have saved him (or his insurance) some money by avoiding the ambulance. Good for you for checking on him!

Bob said...

Glad to hear he's OK. You have obviously been a good friend to him and you proved it in this instance. I'm afraid his lifetime of bad habits might catch up with him though, and next time it might be worse than gastritis.

Leigh said...

Great story! Well written, Ed, you had me on the edge of my seat. I'm glad it wasn't a heart attack but those symptoms aren't to be minimized. I think it's common for folks to say they'll be alright and not want 911 called, but it's better to be safe than sorry.

Ed said...

Vince - I definitely reached that point when he collapsed to the floor.

Sage - On hind site, I'm glad he didn't take me up on the offer to drive him to the hospital. It might have put me in a liability situation if for some reason my car broke down and he died on the way.

Bob - I've always been drawn to the loners around me that others ignore. Often times they have interesting stories but are just too much of a social butterfly to share.

Leigh - I've talked with Axel a couple times since that episode and I don't think he regrets me calling 911 though he doesn't like the bills that will probably be coming. I know I wouldn't either.