Monday, May 12, 2008

I Watched A Man Die Today

My band was playing downtown at MadDogs on the Riverwalk.
The equipment was unloaded onto the sidewalk and Rikk and I left to park our vehicles while Steve guarded the gear.
When I got back, everything changed.

A man in his 60s was crossing the street at College and Presa and Steve said he didn't look very good, like he was suddenly very ill. Luckily a Park Ranger was right there and the man started talking to him but wasn't making any sense.
Then he went down.

And then he was dead.
In seconds a man went from enjoying a beautiful evening in my city to lying dead on the hot concrete.

By this time the Park Ranger had already called for EMS, and the sirens were getting louder. (For my non-local visitors: San Antonio's Park Rangers are a branch of the police that specialize in working our parks and other tourist attractions, including the Riverwalk. Badges, guns, and thankfully radios.)

We kept moving our equipment to the elevator, knowing that it would either be in the way of the rescue personnel or they would be in our way very soon, since the poor guy was less than ten feet away. This ended up being the right call on both counts.
But as I picked up a few items, the man's companion looked me right in the eyes and with tears streaming down her cheeks begged me to "Please help him!"
That's when my heart broke wide open.

What the hell was I supposed to do?
The ambulance is almost here, I have no training, and I'm just trying to clear the area so that when help arrives there won't be any difficulties.
I'm just sorry I didn't tell her that it would be okay in a minute.
There's still just the six of us involved in this tragic scene but things start to happen fast.
20 seconds later a woman in a pink top is performing CPR.
The ambulance is pulling in and a firetruck is also trying to turn down Presa Street.
Suddenly there are maybe eight of our downtown bicycle cops rolling in from all directions, and what was once a private and lonely slice of hell is now the busiest corner in town.

By this time the EMTs are just getting on-scene while the mystery woman continues her very professional looking CPR.
Barely one minute later and there's a huge crowd of people and cops are directing traffic and the dead guy isn't dead anymore.
The Nix hospital is only a block away.
I hope he made it.

I had my camera with me but didn't feel comfortable pulling it out to shoot such a sad situation--but since I don't tell stories without photos around here my phone-cam seemed like an acceptible alternative at the time.
Just took this single photo, and am leaning towards being glad I did.


Dave said...

Man, that'll ruin your day in a hurry.

I think about all the years that I took refresher courses for CPR and first aid and such in the military, but you really just don't know how you will react in a situation like that.

I have found more often than not now, I seem to instinctively pull out my camera and snap pictures of awkward situations - car accident scenes mostly, though in those cases, I only take pictures that come from the natural view. I don't impede traffic or stop to get a better shot. But, everything bad that happens is happening, whether you take pictures or not.

I hope the guy made it...

Matthew Robertson said...

There's nothing else you could have done, and what you did do -- clearing the area so that the trained lifesaving team could do its work -- was exactly right. I don't know what I would have done if someone right there had asked me for help, but it probably would have just made me less useful, not more. Good for you for handling the situation well.

And I hope he's okay, too.

KeithAlanK said...

Thanks, guys. I feel better about it now. I did say a prayer when she asked me for help, and I'm sure my drummer did, too. There was nothing in the newspaper about it so I don't think we'll ever know the outcome.

Aaron said...

Your actions helped by clearing the area; without first aid training there's nothing more you could've done. Whether or not to take photos? I probably would have. I've photographed a bicyclist on the ground after being hit by a car as well as a suicidal man on a bridge railing. In my mind it is recording reality and there's nothing inappropriate; the ethical questions come later when deciding what (if any) should be published.

Albatross said...

Twice I have come across a person that I thought was dead. One time, it was just a passed-out drunk; the other time, it was just someone who was trying to get somewhere far by walking and had simply stopped on the side of the road to sleep for a bit. They were both fine, but the experiences freaked me out a bit.

I hope that person you saw is OK, and I hope you are, too.

KeithAlanK said...

When I was 19 or twenty and living in upstate New York I drove through a blizzard to do a gig in some forgotten town. At 4am I found an old wino in a snowbank, without shoes and frozen solid.
I got him indoors and bundled-up while waiting for the paramedics. They said he had some frostbite but would be okay, and that I definitely saved his life--by morning he would have been dead.