How To Save A Life

A week ago I took my CPR refresher course as part of the Folsom PD training that we go through. While it’s not mandatory it’s highly recommended. A lot has changed since the last time I took it and doing it all over again was a good move.

I left for the Bay Area on my bike today. Leaving at 6 am isn’t anywhere near as bad as having to be up before any other living creature on earth (or so it feels on those days). But you do get to play with the traffic and that’s always a challenge in itself.

Next weekend the clocks change, but for right now the sun comes up around 7 which means that I needed to change my safety glasses over from the clear night ones to sunglasses.

I pulled off the freeway just after 7 at the rest stop off highway 80 before the freeway descends into Vallejo. For the uninitiated highway 80 runs between the east and west coast of the USA and happens to be the main route we take when we go to the Bay Area.

The morning was brisk with the feeling of spring in the air. There was a pleasant calm as I pulled into the rest area and the day was starting out just fine. I was making good progress and was well on track to be in the office at 8:30.

As I stepped off my bike and turned back toward my panniers to get my sunglasses out I noticed a man lying face down next to his car. Something was wrong – seriously wrong. I made my way over to the man as I dialed 911.

It didn’t take long for the realization to sink in that he had collapsed from a heart attack or some other condition. Another passer-by came over and quickly came to the same conclusion.

Although I’m not one to panic under these circumstances, all sorts of things still go through your head at this point, but the value in CPR training makes you realize what you have to do.

It didn’t take long for the first responder until to arrive. A deputy sheriff who has obviously spent many years on the job quickly backed up by a paramedic team.

The paramedics went through the motion of applying the AED pads and attempting to get a response from the man.

They didn’t. He died.

Despite watching the process of the police officer pulling out a yellow sheet to cover him and other officers closing off the rest stop from other members of the public everything just seemed, well kind of normal.

I left there about 45 minutes after I arrived. On my way with the gorgeous feeling of the sun beaming down on me as I rode highway 80 into San Francisco.

But it was on that part of the ride that the questions in my mind raced through like tornado’s obliterating a small town. What if had been there 5 minutes sooner? Did I do all the right steps? Were the last words that man heard “sir are you okay?, sir”…?

I know that this wasn’t my fault and that I was just a passer by in a moment where another individual needed help. A single serving friend who I got to know but never did.

I know his name is Jimmy, which is more that I know about than many other single serving friends. I know he was 63 when he passed away. I know that he died in a place where none of his family were close by. I know it was a gorgeous day when he died and maybe there is some peace in knowing that the last thing he saw was most likely the sun-rise coming over the Diablo mountain range.

If you happen to be reading this and you are thinking to yourself “I wonder what I would have done” – you’d have done the right thing too. But if you get the chance to learn CPR – do it. This time it didn’t work out for Jimmy, but who knows next time might just be the time you, or I, save a life.

Rest in peace Jimmy.

American Heart Association (CPR Information)
British Heart Foundation (CPR Information)