I can’t recall the exact time a call for help rang into my room but early Friday morning, I heard the panic filled scream of a family friend, Amanda, followed by the chaos of finding my grandfather unresponsive. I sat up in my room. I can’t recall if I had been sleeping or not at the time. Regardless, the sound caused by my father screaming made me realize that something was wrong.
“Dad, c’mon, wake up, Dad!” My heart went cold, ice seemed to travel through my veins and I ran into the hall near my grandfather’s room where I heard the call for CPR. My mom brought it up and I remembered that I had been certified in CPR and the use of an AED (which we didn’t have) by the American Heart Association. I ran into the room and pushed my way to the scene. Amanda was screaming and praying, my father was yelling to my grandfather and my mother was just standing, terror struck. Two other people were in the room, both adults, one announced they were trained in CPR and she started to step up. I shakily moved closer to assist her. My father moved back but once she touched my grandpa, she screamed and began to cry. The women screamed.
“I can’t, I can’t! Oh my God, he’s dead, he’s not breathing, I can’t!” All of sudden it hit me that I was up. I looked at him, my grandfather, lying on his back on the bed and realized I had to decide, Do I put his life in my hands? There wasn’t much time to think it through, simply to act.
I barked out orders to my father to get him on his back on the ground and started moving the beer bottles and his wheelchair and told my mother to continue until the immediate area was safe. I scanned my grandfather's body while sitting on my knees. No more than five seconds passed by before I went to move his arm so I could begin compressions. In all honesty, I couldn’t remember how many compressions to do but I was the only one who could do anything until the ambulance arrived. I grabbed his arm and went to move it. His blood smeared on my hand and made my insides squirm slightly but there was no time to mind that. He was already shirtless and so I quickly began.
Adrenaline punched through me; this wasn’t like my training mannequin, this was real. I felt the popping crack that signified my sufficient depth. The sound seemed to travel through my bones and into my ears. It resonated through my head, something I knew would likely haunt me. I kept up compressions and realized I have to breathe for him. In all honesty that is the part that made me think I almost couldn’t do it. I looked at Amanda as I did my few final compressions of the first set. She came near his head and I abruptly told her when and how to tilt back his head, pinch his nose, and breath for him. She hadn’t had the problem I did with what would seem like kissing my unresponsive grandfather. It sounds silly but I can’t be sure I could handle the breaths; Amanda truly became a hero in that moment.
I heard my mother talking on the phone and answering questions. I looked at her and she started repeating what the man said, expressing that I was doing CPR. This went on several more minutes and I was so exhausted and in pain I thought I might cry but couldn’t waste that sort of time. Amanda started crying harder and mumbling to herself and I loudly, boldly told her to pull herself together and breath for him. I gently encouraged her between breaths when I had regained enough strength to speak with clarity. I didn’t wish to worry all who were there since I was currently holding command and giving them hope for his life. The ambulance was on their way and my father went out to look and wait for the ambulance. The professionals were a little under thirty minutes away from the time I had started CPR.
Despite the pain, I never wanted to give up and declare him dead. I not once wanted to tell my father what I was nearly certain of. My mother started moving things out of the room, making way for the professionals when they would arrive. I recall my younger brother hiding away from the commotion in the living room. I silently tried to comfort him in my thoughts as I continued CPR. Thoughts flashed through my mind but only stuck if it had to deal with CPR. I kept thinking of the AED we didn’t have. With it, his chances would have been significantly better. He may even have survived. I continued CPR and encouraged Amanda as well.
Nearly half-way through, I was instructed to focus on compressions. I told Amanda to step back and that she had done well. I kept up my compressions although I was in desperate need to stop; my body felt like fire and I had never felt such pain. I remember thinking sarcastically, And I thought the two minutes on a mannequin was bad. It was like a fire under me when my father announced the lights of the ambulance. I worked harder and faster as if I hadn’t felt I was also dying a moment before. I wanted them to have the best chance of, in my mind, bringing him back. I was certain he had died many minutes before they got to my home but I couldn’t give up on the chance of their professional technologies. I saw and heard the commotion very faintly outside as I was so focused on my own task. I saw the door open and EMT’s rush in. A woman took my place and I moved to help make room. They did everything they could but to no avail. My grandfather had died. I didn’t feel like a failiure or like I dropped the ball. I felt like I did everything I could. I don’t regret my decision to perform CPR and to take action even though he hadn’t survived. After the verdict, I simply wanted to be there for my family and my grandpa’s weeping friends.
The decision to put someone else's life into your hands is one of the scariest uncertainties I’ve ever faced. I’m proud of my decision. Once a choice is made there is no room for panic or fear just simple action. Do what you know and do it well, don’t over think it. Thirty compressions, two breaths, watch the chest rise, repeat. That, for thirty minutes, was my only certainty even if I wasn’t quite certain at first. The moment I decided to step up is the moment all fear, uncertainty and selfish need left my mind and body. Looking back, there are parts that I’ve forgotten of that night and parts I will never forget; parts that haunt me and parts that make me proud but I never felt so much in control. He died but I wasn’t subjected to watch it happen. I was able to do something and that makes the painful parts worthwhile.