Thursday, March 18, 2010

when your number is up...

I went to Food 4 Less for  cheap  asparagus and Cuban saffron rice seasoning.
It is a huge, dirty, ugly store in one of the shabbiest parts of town, open 24/7, and almost always filled with poor people, looking for good deals and immigrant families cruising the extensive ethnic sections for specialty items not available any place else.

When I rounded a huge display of papaya, I found a  man lying on the floor, with very ragged, labored breath.  He was around 60, bald, slightly over-weight wearing a fleece vest and good quality, working man's shined shoes. 

I called to the produce guy to call and ambulance.  He walked away to the back of the store.  Time passed and the guy's breathing got really rough, with long intervals of silence in between breaths.

I yelled at a couple of old ladies.  They didn't seem to understand, and kept right on squeezing the produce. The store was pretty empty, much more quiet than I had ever seen it.  I spotted a youngish guy in bike tights with a backpack and ran up the frozen aisle to him.

"Do you have a phone?  I need you to call 911, then come help me, there is a guy passed out on the floor by the lettuce and I think he is having a heart attack!"

He phoned 911 and ran with me back to the man, who was starting to turn really dusky, blue in the face.  His eye were closed and he was silent.  Bike guy asks me if I can do CPR, and I say yes.

At this point the produce guy sauntered up and tells us to leave, that he has called a manager.

" No, we are not leaving, we called an ambulance and we are going to start CPR"  bike guy tells him.

Then the manager walks up with a digital camera, and suggests that he might just be passed out, it is clear to me that this guy is not intoxicated, He has neatly ironed pants, he doesn't smell like alcohol, he has not pissed his pants, he is not thrashing around and both the bike tights guy and I tell her to fuck off with her liability concerns, and she does. 

The guy on the floor is really quiet.  He is also really big.  I am concerned that my hands are too small to do quality compressions.  Bike guy is also nervous.  He says he fears not being able to push hard enough, too.
I dig around in my wallet for my CPR mouth cover, that I carry for work.   It is child sized, but I remember that I can turn it sideways to cover an adult mouth.  I turn the man's head, and am deeply relieved not to find vomit, or blood.  We check for a pulse, and there is a weak one.  I think I remember that you do not start compressions unless there is no pulse, but I feel like my memory might be wrong, because I am afraid of touching the guy.  His head is quite purple and his lips are blue. He is not gross, or scary, he is just big and motionless and a stranger to me.  He lets out this gasp that sounds like air being released from a balloon, and bike guy asks me if I think he is dead.

The EMTs arrive and I stand up, feeling relieved.

I jump up and down and wave my arms
HERE! Over here!
so they can see us behind the papaya display.

We give them the little information we have, and stand around and watch while they work on his motionless body.

A  crowd starts to gather. 

Bike guy and I shake hands.

You are a good guy

I tell  him.

You are too, um, a good gal.  I can't stand around and wait for this to end.

He tells me.

I think the man is dead, but I wait around anyway for a few more minutes, then I go on with my shopping because I can't think of anything else to do.

A lady asks me if the man has ID.  I tell her I have no idea, but I would think so, because he was shopping.  He must have his wallet, he looks like a wallet kind of person.


  1. ahhhhh honey you did good I am so very proud of you!!!!!!!!

  2. Wow, what idiots are the people who work in that store.
    I wonder how long that guy had been there.
    You really did your best.


  3. The reactions of the employee and manager are just disgusting.