It’s been a sobering week for me. On Tuesday, I was working out at the gym when suddenly a man on a treadmill in front of me fell off his machine and landed wedged between his machine and the one next to him. Immediately, I – along with a few others who saw him fall – raced to his side. He was unconscious, and after observing him closer, we discovered that not only was he not breathing, but we could not find a pulse.
We pulled the man out from between the machines into the isle, and while one man began compressions on the man’s chest, I raced to the other side of the gym and found the AED (automated external defibrillator) and oxygen. Unfortunately, I didn’t have my glasses on, so it was hard for me to read the instructions, but the makers of this life-saving machine have made it pretty simple to operate. With the help of another bystander, we were able to get the electrode pads placed correctly on the man’s chest. Immediately, the machine gave the instruction for us to stand back as it assessed the man’s condition. As we waited, I could see that the man’s heart had begun beating again. The compressions had worked. The voice in the machine said that no shock was necessary.
Our focus then turned to his breathing. He still was not breathing, so we fumbled with the oxygen tank until we could feel that oxygen was coming out. We turned it all the way up and placed the mask over the man’s mouth and nose. We tried to stir him by shaking him and speaking loudly to him. No one knew his name, so we all just yelled things like, “C’mon sir! Wake up, sir! Stay with us, sir!” After about half a minute, the man’s eyes opened wide and he took a deep and long breath. The breath he took nearly sat him straight up. We grabbed him, laid him back down, and encouraged him to keep taking breaths. He did.
After a few minutes of deep, labored breaths, the man spoke. He said he was okay, but we quickly informed him what had happened. All he could say in response was, “Oh boy! Oh boy!” He was able to tell us that he suffers from pulmonary hypertension and that he had passed out once before. However, he informed us that he did not stop breathing nor did his heart stop beating that time. We eventually sat him up against a wall so that he could breathe easier, and he was pretty stable by the time the paramedics arrived. That’s when I walked away, shaken but thankful.
I’m thankful that so many people – strangers – were willing to do whatever it took to save this man’s life. I’m thankful that the gym had an AED and oxygen tank readily available. (By the way, I immediately called my office administrator and had her price an AED for our church building). I’m thankful that the man is alive, but I hope to never see him in the gym again as those with pulmonary hypertension are instructed to avoid strenuous physical activity. And I’m thankful for my health. I have wrestled with hypertension for much of my adult life, but thanks be to God, with a healthier diet and consistent exercise, it seems to be under control right now.
Ever since Tuesday, I have thought about what happened many times. It was traumatic. It was scary. It was sobering to see a man dying right before my eyes. Praise God he didn’t. As the man left the gym that day, my prayers left with him.