It was the Saturday after Thanksgiving. My family and I decided to head to town and scope out any remaining shopping deals, as well as run other errands.What I thought would be a typical day, clearly was not.
We first stopped at Walmart to purchase a baby gate for my cat. We got into what we thought was a short line; one customer who was nearly finished with checking out. Unfortunately, it took over 10 minutes as there were errors in her attempts to purchase a gift card. When it was finally our turn, it was discovered that the gate we picked up did not have a bar code. I ran back to get a new gate and we finally checked out.
Next stop, the mall. My mother and I went to Bath and Body works. As we neared the check out, the power went out. Not just that store, but 90% of the mall! Per mall policy, we had to leave the store without checking out. We also noticed that there were two individuals stuck in the elevator! Luckily they made it to the very top, and several individuals were able to open the doors to let them out.
Enough was enough with this bizarre day. We decided to head to Maui Market Place to grab some lunch. Of my parents and I, I was the first to finish my food. Since Petco was only a few stores down from the food court, I decided to see the cats for adoption and pick up a toy or two for Callie. Ten minutes or so have passed, then I headed back to my parents. I return to my chair and place my purse on the back, about to sit down. I hear coughing. I thought nothing of it. As I sat for a minute, the coughing became worse and more aggressive. The SLP to be in me knew something was not right. “Choking! Oh no! Someone is choking!” I thought. I began to look around, localizing the coughing with my ears. It was the individual behind me. He was already receiving the Heimlich maneuver from another individual. As I approach, I slowly analyze and try to process everything. I ask the man doing the Heimlich if he was going deep enough. The victim was large, and the individual helping was only medium built. A woman was on the phone with 9-1-1. I suggested a few palm strikes to the back. This is a moment I regret. Not standing my ground and being confident in what I know, to direct people, older than I, on what to do. The strikes were unsuccessful. The dispatcher suggested we begin CPR. The woman on the phone asked “who knows CPR?!” and I raised my hand. I instructed individuals to take him to the floor, and I began compressions. I felt confident in that moment. I didn’t see the man. I saw my friend who was my partner when we trained for our certificates. Her face calmed me as I resumed compressions. I began to count out loud and became more aware of my compressions, making sure I was going deep, fast, and hard enough. At 30-35 compressions, he groaned and sat up. The people around me suggested sitting him up or laying him on his side. We thought we had him. We were wrong. He collapsed. I recommended swabbing his mouth for any debris. Nothing. CPR resumed by an off duty fireman. I asked my mom to search for an AED prior to starting CPR. The woman on the phone ran to every store nearby. None of them had an AED. By this time, she returned with an off duty paramedic who assisted the fireman. A policeman soon arrived with an AED and the first round of shocks were delivered. A team of firemen and later paramedics finally arrived. The team worked hard to keep the man alive, and there were times it seemed like they were successful. 45 minutes later, the paramedics load him onto a gurney and placed into the ambulance.
I could not believe what had just happened. How I became a part of that still blows my mind. I had no idea who this individual was, but stepped in anyway. Because of that, I felt responsible. I prayed for this man nearly every night, and thought about him often. I prayed that he be well, or if he pass, he go in peace. Knowing that this man had so much medical problems up against him and this is how his life would end, baffles me to this day.
I returned to school on Monday and spoke with the AED Institute office that was just down the hall from mine. I shared my story, and felt a bit at ease when they said they would be sure to get an AED to Maui Marketplace. I can only hope they keep their word.
May no one ever have to go through an incident like this, whether it be victim or witness. However, I am so grateful to have received such training to have any idea as to what I could do and how to help. This man has inspired me to continue to help as many as I can throughout my time here.