Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Time of death

My firefighter got toned out for a possible heart attack the other day. It was bright and early, and he and the firefighter he works with both had the same thought. First thing in the morning is when paramedics declare a lot of deaths. That's when the calls come in for elderly people who woke up to find their spouse had passed away in the middle of the night. At least the calls are for people who passed in a fairly ideal way.

Sure enough, this was one of those calls. It was at an assisted living community and the man had flat-lined before my firefighter even arrived on scene. The gentleman was gone, but since there were no obvious signs of death, my firefighter went through all of the motions--CPR, drugs, cardiac monitor, start an IV--just in case, and because that's the law. He was kneeling over this man, doing CPR, right by the front door. Proper CPR means breaking ribs. He felt all but one of them pop on the first compression and could tell that the man had osteoporosis. He sent another firefighter to find out if the man had a DNR (do not resuscitate) order.


The death itself happened peacefully, but the aftermath was anything but peaceful. The other residents of the assisted living community were treating this as a spectacle. Instead of giving the family and the emergency personnel their space, they all came out to see what was going on. Not only did they come out of their houses, which I can understand, but they tried to open the door and actually come in to the apartment where my firefighter was working. Here was my firefighter, doing CPR on a man, trying to keep the door shut with his foot while he worked. He said that around 40 people tried to come in. The community was predominantly not english speaking, but I think they understood what he meant when my firefighter yelled "NO!" at them. That didn't stop them from trying.

One man was especially tenacious. He did speak English, and when my firefighter was standing outside at the end of the call, he came up to find out what had happened. The man wanted to know which apartment the dead man was in. My firefighter didn't tell him. So, undeterred, he went around and just started opening residents' doors to see if he could find the right house, not even knocking first.

If people are that curious when I pass away peacefully in my sleep, I hope that at the very least, they do something useful--like bring a plate of cookies for my family and the emergency personnel. I might be convinced to overlook the intrusion if there are cookies involved.


Hydrant girl said...

Or brownies. I can forgive just about anything for brownies :)

So true about the gawkers!

Liz said...

Wow. That's voyeurism at it's worst. So sad.

Fiddle1 said...

Old people are all the same! How infuriating. I can just see all the people at my grandmother's condo doing the same thing. Nosy, nosy, and they have no sense of decency. I hope your firefighter put them in their places. But, as you say, it probably would never register on them.

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