Curtain Call


[Curtain Rises.]

Life’s funny isn’t it?

Walking down the street yesterday on our way to see a new French movie, Olaf and I were discussing how we were shocked by Breaking Bad season 4 as well by the warmth of the Melbourne sun, when reality took us for a full life and death experience. A man crossing at an intersection suddenly collapsed before us, as though the sun had literally beaten him to the ground.

We approached the couple of people who had squatted beside him, unsure of what was happening and who were checking for a pulse. I didn’t run there, I was fully aware of the fact that any time now a doctor would appear and perform on the spot heart surgery before our eyes. Maybe someone would even sell me popcorn. But no doctor came. Olaf started monitoring traffic at the intersection and keeping the area clear. I waited for someone to tell me what to do but no one did. One final rattling exhale and that’s when I heard a voice shout out:

Has an ambulance been called? Does anyone here know CPR? Do we have a pulse? No pulse, no breath, okay you, are you comfortable giving compressions? Yes. I need you to give 30 compressions, on his back, now. No, its not 22 per minute any more its 30. What about breaths? Blood and drool. Eck. No, don’t worry about breaths, just start with compressions. Do the ambulance agree? Yes. It wasn’t until an off duty paramedic turned up that I realised that the voice that was shouting was mine.

We lost him twice and by the time the ambulance came he had an irregular heart beat and they were applying the respirator and defib. I stood up from by the elderly man’s side and headed for the toilets in the cinema to clean up. No scrubs. No worries. I sacrificed a favourite scarf as a towel and wash cloth. I always carry a scarf, even on hot days. Melbourne is the four-seasons-in-one-day city. And I wasn’t proven wrong.

After our coffee and debrief, we decided to see the movie after all. It had been steaming hot all day but suddenly a storm had enveloped Melbourne. I was safer to stay inside in the cosy armchairs. After the movie we walked out to the intersection and stared at the spot where the man had fallen. The sun was beaming, the rain had washed away every bit of evidence that the man had died there at least twice and maybe a third time, I guess we will never know. There were young girls in short shorts crossing the street carrying shopping bags and chattering away, unbeknownst to them, a man had fought for his life with a heart attack there earlier that day.

Old man, whoever you are, I hope that you are well. I have tried to call the hospital and find out with no luck; but maybe it’s best to just leave it.

This isn’t Hollywood. It’s a one act play: A Tragedy, perhaps? And behind the scenes are real people: in a hospital ward, on the streets, in the cinema, at work – all scurrying around – building sets and taking them down, collecting props, writing lines and practicing them on family members, wearing make up and acting like someone else.

But it was in that one act, that everything was so real.

[Curtain Falls.]