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  #1  
Old 26 Mar 2007
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Yesterday a man died in my hands...

Sorry for this if you may have read it on another forum that I posted it to earlier today but I am still a bit shell shocked from my experience.

I was on the way back from a lovely weekend in the champagne region in France yesterday and on the way back home pulled into a service station on the motorway for a coffee. We were just about to leave and noticed a commotion in the car next but one to us. At first I thought the elderly couple were having an argument because the woman was standing by the drivers door and she was leaning in shouting her husband’s name but it quickly became clear it wasn’t an argument – something more serious was wrong . I went across to see if I could help and assessed pretty much immediately that the old boy was having a heart attack. At this point he was breathing very difficultly and his pulse was weak and erratic. He was grey and sweating and was completely unaware of me. Then moments later his pulse stopped and he stopped breathing . His wife explained the old guy had a pace maker fitted but clearly it wasn’t helping him now.

Shit …. What a thing to spring on me in a motorway car park. I couldn’t get him out of the car by myself and I had to start trying to resuscitate him in the car so I reclined his seat as far as I could and set to giving him CPR . I told my girlfriend to go and raise hell and get and ambulance fast and she shot off to get that arranged while I carried on giving him CPR. After a few minutes a small crowd gathered and thankfully a German trucker named Max offered his help. He knew CPR as well so we continued with him doing the chest compressions and me trying to ventilate the old boy by mouth to mouth. Time dragged on but we kept at it in the car until another able bodied guy came along and with 3 of us we quickly got the old man out of the car and laid him out on the parking bay and carried on. I had no idea how much time had elapsed, it seemed like no time at all but at the same time, time seemed to stand still. We had managed to get him back twice and he breathed a few times before he faded again. All we could do was carry on until the paramedics arrived.

After about 20 minutes from the first intervention the ambulance arrived but through CPR the old boy seemed to have some colour in his lips and cheeks so we were keeping things going and he definitely wasn’t looking as grey as when I first clapped eyes on him but he had no discernable pulse or breathing on his own , at this point I was already fearing the worst but we just had to keep going. I remembered from my first aid training you never stop – just keep at it so we did.
The paramedics took over and set to with all their drugs and electronic equipment but it was all to no avail. They shocked him 4 times and gave him all the intensive roadside treatment they could but after about another 30 minutes they gave up on the old chap and he was pronounced dead.

It was an intensely emotional end to what had been a fine weekend up to that point. I keep asking myself why couldn’t it have turned out differently ? It always works on TV but yesterday the old boy, who’s name was Raymond died in my hands surrounded by strangers in the gutter of a motorway car park…… I know I did all I could and clearly even the paramedics with all their equipment couldn’t save him which is some small consolation I suppose but it seemed so sad that anyone should die like this. .

RIP Raymond , sorry I couldn’t do better for you.

PS: The irony of this tragedy is it turns out that Max the German trucker is a motor cycle training instructor in Germany and he runs track days for Suzuki Germany and rides and R1200GS as his private bike. Two complete stangers thrown together by fate both GSers trying to save another man's life. How wierd is that...?

PPS: The moral of this story is if you haven't been trained in CPR go and get yourself trained because at least today I can look at myself in the mirror and say I tried to save a fellow human being's life . Had I not been able to, like many of the nearby onlookers yesterday and the outcome had been the same as a result not trying I couldn't imagine how I would feel today.
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  #2  
Old 26 Mar 2007
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Sorry to read of your experience, Gecko, but I am encouraged to read that you have moved forward to find a positive outcome, in reminding us all to get training where we can on things like this.

best wishes
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Old 26 Mar 2007
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Thumbs up

Good on you for trying so hard. Sounds like you have done all you could which is all that can be expected of anybody.

As for Raymond, I guess his number was up and he probably wouldn't have lived if the ambulance had been parked right next to him.

You have done your bit, which is all too rare these days, so have a pat on the back. I hope you get over this soon and perhaps a new friendship will come out of this.

Regards,
Peter.
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Old 26 Mar 2007
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I had a similar experience 30 odd years ago in Spain when helping my brother who was a lifeguard. If it's any consolation, only about 25% of people recover with the use of proper cardiac equipment, and practically none through just CPR.

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  #5  
Old 26 Mar 2007
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Gecko

A moving story. A tough time for you and others around.

Let us hope Raymond had had an equally enjoyable weekend as you - until your routes met.

Best wishes
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  #6  
Old 26 Mar 2007
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This was not in your hands. What had to happen did.

CPR is best given on the ground - a car seat will flex, reducing the compression of the chest (it's acceptable to break ribs while compressing, which has to be done HARD).

Not a guarantee that it would have saved him. You guys did your best at that point, and in spite of it, his survival was not meant to be.

Don't dwell on it.

Happens.
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Old 26 Mar 2007
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Gecko, Well done, I applaud you. So many stand by and watch. You are a doer. Your comment about more people taking training in CPR is a good one. It would be relatively easy to organise some training at the various meets around the world. 10 mins of training on a resusitation dummy ( hilarious fun ) would keep it in the back of your mind. You always remember when the time comes.
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Old 26 Mar 2007
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Yes, if I were in that situation it would have a harsh impact on me.
As you say, at least you don't have to feel that you were helpless - you tried your best but the old guy's time had come.
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  #9  
Old 26 Mar 2007
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I'll offer my two pennies worth, with the benefit of nearly 20 years as a nurse, military and civillian, and the last 5 years in the emergency department. Despite all that training and experience, when faced with an experience like yours I still spend altogether too much time afterwards analysing what happened, could it have been different etc. It is a perfectly normal reaction to what has happened. What you have been through is an experience that your head is not used to and you will spend a lot of time reliving it and going through it in your head. That is also normal. It is part of the process of your brain trying to adjust itself to an entirely new set of stimuli. The feelings and thoughts will fade with time, just accept that they are there and work with them.

As regards the cardiac arrest itself, accepted wisdom now is that you stand very little chance (like none at all) of bringing someone back from a cardiac arrest with just CPR. So much so that the military now don't even teach it as part of battle field first aid. what the patient needs is electricity and drugs. The sooner the better, but that is out of your hands. What CPR does is keep the oxygen circulating until that can happen. the fact that you got him pink and kept him pink tells me that you were doing very efficient CPR, no mean feat for that length of time, it's bloody hard work!

The biggest problem we face in the emergency dept is most cardiac arrest victims are dead when they come in because they haven't had good cpr at the scene. It is estimated that 40% more cardiac arrest patients would survive if given CPR on scene, so anyone reading this, get yourself on a course, before it's someone you know dying in front of you while you stand about with your thumb up your bum.

It sounds to me like this guy had a non survivable arrest, you gave him the best chance with efficient cpr but clearly it wasn't meant to be. It isn't like on the tv. people usually die but you gave him the best possible chance. Remember that and don't let it put you off if it happens again. clearly you knew what you were doing and applied it well, so next time do the same.
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Old 27 Mar 2007
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Thanks for the support and encouragement. I would have no hesitation of doing the same again tomorrow and the day after if it was necessary. The training I had was done a number of years ago and it was the first time I have had to try it for real.
One thing for sure is that 20 minutes of administering CPR is very exhausting. The amount of effort needed to inflate a man's lungs cannot be underestimated and the dummies we learn on don't give you any experience of the true effort, the sounds or the smells you get when doing it for real.
I had a lot of thoughts going through my head for a while afterwards but in coming to terms with the whole situation I was proud at least to be able to do what I could.
The comment someone made above about doing it on the ground is very valid. It is far from ideal to try this on someone whilst they are sitting in a reclined car seat but in my situation where I was initally alone I had to act . We moved him out of the car as soon as a 3rd volunteer offered to help and carried on with him on the ground for about 10 minutes before the paramedics arrived..... and ....I think we may well have broken his ribs but that was the reality - it really was a do or die situation.
My girlfreind has already signed up with the local Red Cross for a first aid training course following our experience and hopefully others will follow her example and get some CPR training too.
The sad truth is this was an old man who already had heart problems and with a pacemaker already keeping him going so I have come to terms with the fact that even if this had happened elsewhere with full medical assistance closer to hand I doubt he would have made it.
The upsetting part is that he died on the ground in a motorway service station car park. That's not a nice place to go and it's upsetting to have had to leave his wife behind with the Gendarmes knowing her whole world had just changed forever.
Thanks again for the kind words and encouragement - I hope that if nothing else comes from this other than just one person is prompted to get trained in CPR then my telling my story and this man's death will not have been in vain.
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Old 27 Mar 2007
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OK - here's the first

OK - I'll be the first to make something come of it.

Where can you get the training? Any recommendations?
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Old 27 Mar 2007
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The St John's Ambulance organisation St. John Ambulance - The UK's leading First Aid, Care and Transport Charity does some very good training courses in the UK. This is who I did mine with a few years back . In Europe the local Red Cross organisations seem to be the place to start.
Well done you let us know how you get on !
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Old 27 Mar 2007
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And cheap as well

Wow - jsut £20 a pop for a basic course. Just gotta persuade the wife that I'm worth saving, then find a convenient course and then I'll let you know how it is.

Thanks for the info, and thanks for the story. Makes it seem a bit more real.
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Old 27 Mar 2007
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gecko View Post
The upsetting part is that he died on the ground in a motorway service station car park. That's not a nice place to go and it's upsetting to have had to leave his wife behind with the Gendarmes knowing her whole world had just changed forever.
His lady now knows that nothing could have saved him. More important than where he died is the fact that he got assistance immediately, something so few are fortunate enough to get and something she could never have managed had this happened at home .

He's dead - his thoughts don't count anymore, but it would have eaten her alive thinking that he might just have survived had she been able to do something that she was anyways physically incapable of - now she knows that everything was tried and it didn't work.

It's much easier to accept an act of GOD
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Old 27 Mar 2007
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QUOTE'paramedics arrived..... and ....I think we may well have broken his ribs but that was the reality - it really was a do or die situation.'

I broke some ribs doing this in the emrgency dept last weds.

when this happened when I was a student nurse the A&E sister said 'if you don't your probably not doing it right!'

You need a lot of force to do CPR, and particularly as you get tired your hands start to drop there is a good chance of this happening, especially on old people.

On the legal side by the way, in the UK at least and so presumably europe you are covered by a thing called the good samaritan principal, which means you won't be sued for trying your best.
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