I let a man die.
I was not yet a Green Beret Medic, nor was I a licensed medical professional, but I was directly responsible for a young man’s death. I was a junior in college, going for a run near Lake Shore Drive on a sunny afternoon during the summer months in Chicago. The steady pace of my run ceased immediately as I heard the squealing of tires and I involuntarily cringed as I heard vehicles violently collide nearby.
The park, full of people on such a nice day, all turned with me as we strove to catch a glimpse of what had just occurred. A few hundred yards ahead of me, a small group of people began quickly moving towards what appeared to be the scene of the accident. Curious, and the accident being in the direction my run was already taking me, I picked up the pace until I reached the growing crowd. My heart sank as I saw that the majority of the crowd now stood over a young man who had been thrown off his motorcycle and laid in the grass nearly 50 feet from where is bike rested.
This young man, not yet unconscious but clearly in trouble and not understanding what had happened to him, laid half on his side, staring at his profusely bleeding arm, which had been nearly torn off in the accident. Both his legs lay at a funny angle, and his hair was matted in bright blood. Someone in the crowd said to no one in particular that they had called 9-1-1. As the group listened for the sounds of the sirens to let us know that help was on the way, we offered nothing in the way of assistance except silent hope and wordless prayers. A number of minutes later, the ambulance arrived and the EMT’s began working on him. I remember that he was still breathing at the time the EMT’s arrived, and continued my run confident that everything would be okay.
The next day, I read that the accident I had witnessed the previous day resulted in the death of a motorcyclist. The man had died of his injuries. While it was a collective failure on the part of the entire group that had gathered around him to either be unwilling or unable to offer assistance, I felt personally responsible. The week prior, a friend who volunteered as a firefighter in Chicago had offered me a chance to take a first-responders course that Saturday, free of charge, at his firehouse. It being college, I had decided that partying and drinking were more important than getting up early, and had ridiculed him for even asking. 8 hours of learning how to stop bleeds, assist with breathing, and recognize the seriousness of injuries. I stood by almost exactly one week later and watched a man presumably bleed to death because I chose to drink rather than learn. I chose to spend Saturday hung over rather than learn exactly the type of emergency interventions that could have saved a man’s life. I didn’t just let a man die, my selfishness killed him.
If you'd like to learn more about ways to save a life and gets the basics on trauma medicine, please visit the following links to help get you started.
A few links to resources to get you started:
There are plenty more basic and advanced classes given by the likes of:
www.cagmain.com (former SF medic)
www.d-dey.com (former SF medic)