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With my heart feeling heavy

October 1, 2013

It’s not every day you see someone die on the street.

I was standing at a crowded tram stop on La Trobe Street at the intersection of Elizabeth Street when I noticed activity to my left. A woman had collapsed to the ground 5 metres to away from me. Before I could take more than two steps other people were checking on her and a young woman who appeared to be a nurse stepped forward and a heart beat monitor was on her finger in a flash. Not wanting to crowd in on the first aid efforts I took a few steps back, but not before seeing the collapsed woman was blue in the face.

Others were already on their phones to contact emergency services and I thought it better left to those closer to the woman so they could relay instructions or report her condition. It was then I realised the trams would need to be stopped so I took it upon myself to stop the approaching City Circle Tram, informing the tram driver when it had come to a stop that a woman had collapsed. I quickly checked on the first aid effort to see that CPR was now being performed and I relayed this information to the tram driver.

I then noticed the west bound traffic was endangering the first aid effort and started to guide traffic safely to the left. At that time I heard the sirens of arriving emergency services and was able to wave down the arriving MFB unit, and then direct the arriving Paramedics around the tram to the woman who had collapsed.

I then continued to guide traffic safely through the area for a few more minutes, allowing tram passengers to safely disembark from the tram that was going nowhere, until police officers and Yarra Trams staff arrived to take control of the situation. I took my leave and from a distance checked on the resuscitation efforts to see that paramedics were now performing forceful CPR on their patient.

Suddenly feeling a range of emotion I stepped to the footpath where others who had been at the tram stop were now observing the situation, including the young nurse who had provided the initial first aid. A number of onlookers had gathered. I decided to stay hoping for a good outcome but not wanting to see the CPR take place (feeling like it deserved some privacy but also upset at how forceful it was) I placed myself on the other side of the fire brigade unit.

Pedestrians were still crossing with the lights and traffic was making it through the intersection slowly. Some people were stepping forward to take photos of the resuscitation efforts in a rather ghoulish fashion. I felt like speaking up, but felt it would make the situation even weirder. I was by now fearing the worst. I was feeling a little lost, and then saw the hand scrawled message on the side of the ambulance that is part of the paramedics campaign against the Liberal government in Victoria. I decided a picture of that would be appropriate and tweeted that picture with a comment that “I have my fingers crossed.”

Vic Ambos

After what I guessed to be about twenty minutes since the paramedics arrived I stepped to the side of fire brigade unit to see the forceful CPR continuing, but the woman’s face was now a deathly purple.

A few minutes later there was activity as one and then another of the paramedics stepped to the ambulance to retrieve implements, but with no great urgency. Knowing what to then expect I again stepped to the side of the unit, to see a blanket had been placed over the woman’s body. 25+ minutes of CPR had been unable to revive her.

A sense of sadness had been growing and now sat heavily on my chest. The paramedics and fire brigade personnel positioned the woman’s body on a stretcher as police officers were completing paperwork. Some bystanders started to drift away while others exchanged snippets of grief and shock as to the result. Someone asked me how old she was and I replied about 30. I’m not sure how that impression formed so quickly as I really only had a few quick glimpses of her face but she did seem way too young to collapse to the ground like that. Someone else asked if she was homeless and I answered I didn’t believe so. Another person commented that a family is about to receive a very sad phone call, but with the question about her being homeless fresh in my mind I stated “I hope she has a family to receive the phone call.” That seemed to weigh heavily on everyone in earshot.

The stretcher on which her body now laid was loaded into the ambulance. A fireman quickly used a fire hose to wash away what had been spilled during the first aid efforts but I could not tell what it had been, and to be honest I don’t want to know. The fire brigade unit then departed, and then the ambulance departed, followed a few minutes later by the other paramedic vehicles and the police officers. The street was now empty of emergency vehicles, but a few onlookers remained.

It was time to leave with my heart feeling heavy,

I wished I had been able to demonstrate my appreciation for the emergency services and the Yarra Trams staff at the time, but it felt inappropriate. I hope this blog illustrates my respect for them today. Deeply and sincerely.

From → Personal

One Comment
  1. That was a good tribute.
    I’ve been in a similar situation and I understand your emotions.

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