I had decided it was best not to go the family dinner. I wasn’t upset about it. But it bothered my coworker, so she got her brother, one of our bosses, to invite me to his house for Christmas dinner.
I would have been fine without going, but felt it would be churlish to say no. So I got in the car to drive to dinner and while I was driving my phone kept dinging with text messages. I ignored them because I don’t pick up my phone while I’m driving.
I pulled up to the curb at my boss’s house and picked up the text messages. My sister. Telling me that my nephew had had a cardiac arrest on her kitchen floor and was being air-cared to a hospital near me. They live in a small town about 40 miles outside of the city. My nephew is 36.
I didn’t go to the dinner and spent the next week going to the hospital. In the end he had a defibrillator-pacemaker put in for what the doctors think is a genetic electrical heart issue. Long QT syndrome.
I cannot tell you how grateful I am that we live in an age with modern medicine and technology. I’m fairly sure my grandfather died of this. Just suddenly with no warning at the age of 59, while waiting for a train. My nephew on the other hand will be able to live a long, reasonably normal life. Because he had his experience 60 years later. In a world with 911, and CPR and those shock machines and air care and finally – an implantable defibrillator-pacemaker.
Of course none of that would have mattered if my nephew had this alone. His event was witnessed. People were there to help. It matters – having someone there immediately – matters tremendously. No one in the room knew CPR, but the 911 operator just walked them through it until the first police officer arrived and took over. The EMTs had to shock him 4 times to bring him back from the flat line. My sister said his eyes were open the whole time.
4 people who loved him desperately had to watch that, and as horrible as that was emotionally, it was their presence and actions that saved him. I hope that gives them some level of comfort when those horrible memories intrude.
If you know a first responder, give them a hug. They matter so much.