On Friday night, shortly after midnight, a man collapsed outside our house. We thought he was a casualty of the Bank Holiday reveries — and may well have been — but his fall was severe. He was unconscious and struggling to breath. We called 999. It was a busy night and a Community First Responder arrived first. He’d barely been there a minute before he was barking “arrest, arrest” into his radio. The man’s heart had stopped. We took turns giving him CPR. Never have I wished for proper medical training more in my life.
Once the paramedics arrived, we were left standing in the street, the only witnesses, directing traffic as they tried to resuscitate him. After an hour of roadside treatment, he was taken off to hospital, stable but very unwell, and we sat with ourselves for a while with little hope of sleep.
Over Castle Hill, on the other side of town, the lunar omen was rising high.
The next day, we rode the strangely euphoric high into police interviews and visiting friends. Then the bottom fell off the world. It was like an adrenaline hangover. Concern for the man and his family — always present, of course — was suddenly heightened to a previously unimaginable degree. A desire to have known what to do, rather than wait around anxiously for someone better informed, made us feel useless. The distance created by shock wore off and the reality of giving a stranger CPR barefoot in the middle of the street outside our home produced a feeling of whiplash.
The police came round to take statements from us and preserve the scene. His condition had not improved and so, if the worst happened and he didn’t make it, there would need to be an investigation. There was a lingering suspicion of third-party involvement. We hadn’t really seen anything happen, only the aftermath. Although it seemed very unlikely anyone else was there to do this to him, it remained unclear how a drunken fall could do quite so much damage.
That evening I joined the waiting list to become a Community First Responder with the West Yorkshire Ambulance Service.