I sat through a First Aid/CPR class with fifteen men I work with. The instructor asked if anyone had used CPR before.
From the back of the room, I slowly slipped my hand up. She wheeled on me like a Doberman Pinscher staring at an Oscar Meyer hot dog and commanded, “Tell us about it.”
Suddenly thrust into the limelight in front of co-workers, I started. “Well”, shrugging my shoulders, “Twenty-five years ago I was sitting in a little cafe minding my own business. It was 3:00 in the afternoon so there was hardly anyone else there except an old man and two elderly ladies. All of the sudden I heard a commotion and one of the old ladies was trying to hold up the man who had slumped over the table. She was shaking him yelling, ‘Don’t you die on me! Don’t you die on me!’”
“I ran over and pulled the man out of the chair onto the floor. His eyes were rolled back in his head and he wasn’t breathing, but he had a feint, irregular pulse. I figured he’d had a heart attack.”
I looked around the room. All my co-workers were staring at me, the instructor too, as if they were listening to a Grammy winning story. I cleared my throat, raised one eye brow, and started to embellish on the story in a radio announcer voice.
“Yeah, well, I told myself, I said, ‘Self, you gotta do something here, and quick, cause this old codger is about a minute away from either checking out the pearly gates or gettin’ his buns baked over the coals’. And me, being so steadfast and prepared and everything, well I locked my fingers together and popped all my knuckles, like this (demonstrating how I did it), and then reached up a couple times to stretch my shoulders (showing how I stretched before springing into action). Well then I started to work on the old timer to save his measly life!”
I looked around the room again expecting my embellishment to have everyone sitting on the edge of their chairs. Nope. One coworker was frowning at me with crossed arms. Another had his chin propped in his hand on the desk as if he doubted me, while the instructor looked irritated, like a door to door salesmen just rang her doorbell.
From then on I quit embellishing and just stuck with the facts, nothing but the facts ma’am. Here’s the rest, with no embellishment. Promise! This is how it went down, exactly.
Well the one woman, I guess it was his wife, just kept yelling, “Don’t you die on me!” over an over. I told her to go call 9-1-1 because we needed an ambulance, and quite frankly, it hushed her up for a minute with something important to do.
It was then I performed my first, and last, CPR. The old fella was on the wooden floor and I did exactly how they were teaching CPR, at least back then. I took his pulse, which was quickly getting weaker, and then listened to his chest for breathing. He wasn’t breathing, so I did a quick finger sweep to make sure nothing was in his mouth.
Still no breathing, so I titled his head back, pinched his nose and did what I thought I’d never, ever do in all my days — I put my mouth on another man’s mouth to blow air into his lungs.
At the time I just did it without thinking. But now, now it just makes me sick to my stomach! I feel like I may need therapy for the trauma, and may be showing signs of PTSD cause of CPR.
Anyway, I pinched his nose closed, blew a breath into the man’s lungs and listened for him to exhale. His exhale sounded like a clogged vacuum cleaner with a full dust bag.
He gurgled and gargled as the air came out. Again, I pinched his nose and started blowing life giving air into his lungs, but halfway through the second breath the man coughed, projectile coughed!
Now here’s the deal, I had my mouth on this man’s mouth breathing air into his lungs, and when he projectile coughed up phlegm, gunk and possibly used motor oil from his lungs, there was no other direction for it to go except in my mouth! Eeeewwww!
In that moment, I would have rather been bitten on the tongue by a black king cobra. It would have been more merciful. But as it was, I had a mouth full of phlegm! I started spitting, repeatedly, while gagging at the same time, and heaving while trying to control the nauseous feeling in the pit of my stomach.
At this point I looked around the room again. Every man in that classroom looked green and disturbed. You could tell the instructor was sorry she’d asked me to tell the story too.
She started to say something to stop me, but I’d gone that far and wasn’t going to leave the story hanging in my mouth (no pun intended). So I pushed on through the story like a cow giving birth.
I just kept repeatedly spitting, wishing I had a can of Lysol to spray in my mouth or bottle of Pine-Sol to gargle. The ambulance sirens were getting closer.
The old man started breathing on his own, or at least gasping for air, coughing up more phlegm from his lungs. By the time the paramedics got there, the man was sitting up, breathing fairly well and regaining his color.
Ironically enough, the paramedics came to me first asking what my emergency was since I was the one doubled over on my hands and knees still gagging and spitting faster than Mel Tillis giving a speech at a Toastmaster’s convention.
I looked disgustedly at the paramedics and just pointed at the old geezer, whose wife was sitting beside him now yelling, “Here he is! Here he is!”
Turns out the man, who was quite embarrassed himself, had emphysema and was literally drowning in his own phlegm.
A local man I knew found out who he was and told me later that he lived another four months before he died.
I told the class he lived another four months, and don’t judge me here, but if I knew all that was for just four more months, I don’t know if I’d do it again.
By now the instructor had come and stood right in front of me telling everyone we were going to watch a video.
In the second half of the class, she did the First Aid training. She asked if anyone had ever administered First Aid. I slowly slipped up my hand. The instructor pretended she didn’t see me and quickly went on, but I’m pretty sure she did…