I see a man most mornings because he is also always running a little late bringing his kids in to school. I feel a bond with him and the handful of other people I see every day. The man is dapper and quiet and the kids are actually his niece and nephew; he takes them to school for his sister. He drives a fancy car and stands out as always being dressed up, though in a casual way. As I was driving away on Monday morning I saw him lying motionless on the street next to his car. Someone was giving him chest compressions. There was a little crowd waving people away but I stopped because I knew him, if only by sight. A woman walking her dog had seen him slumped in his running car and opened the door to check on him. He fell to the ground. He had no heartbeat. The ambulance and police came but they couldn’t get his heart started. I found the names and numbers of his next of kin through the school secretary who was helpful and quick. I wrote them down in the policeman’s notepad. Two of the women standing there were moms of kids at our school but neither recognized him. I told the one I know that he’s the man who wears the paddington hat and drives a Mercedes. “Not the man with the hat!” she said and started crying. She hadn’t recognized him hatless. She is fond of him too. The ambulance did not drive away. A bad sign said the doctor whose house this happened in front of, she was the one giving chest compressions. After what seemed like too long someone walked out of the ambulance and announced that they had gotten a pulse. They drove off, sirens blaring. The five women, me included, exchanged email addresses so I could report on how he fared because I knew I could find out. One recognized my name from a local listserv on which I’m active. My friend recognized the doctor because she had been featured in many NOVA programs on which my friend had worked. I knew the EMT driver from the Cuban restaurant I’ve been going to for twenty years. We are all intertwined. It was a very sad morning but also quite moving for the reminder that good and helpful people abound and community can be formed in a heartbeat.
Since I had his sister’s name I was able to glean that the man has a large extended family in our town. I stopped by one shop to inquire after him late Monday. He had just come out of surgery and they were worried about brain damage because of the lengthy time during which he had no pulse. On Wednesday someone in another store, another cousin, told me he was still in the ICU. That night I got a report that he was still unconscious and intubated but the ventilator was doing less of the work. I relayed the messages to the other women who had stopped and we exchanged flurries of concerned emails. The young woman with the dog told us that she almost didn’t stop but she turned around and did. Something told her that she should. Thirty seconds later a doctor just happened to walk out of her house and she was able to start CPR immediately. The other mom from my kids’ school is a nurse and she held his hand and spoke gently to him though he was unconscious or worse. They saved his life.
Last night I got a call from a mom I know who is related to the man. He was awake and talking. He remembers nothing. He is expected to make a full recovery. The other women and I can’t wait to bring him flowers.