I watched a man die last night (possibly TMI)

Neither mundane nor pointless to those involved, but I need to vent these emotions somewhere “safe”.

My husband and I are staying on a little island off the coast of Belize. It has an airstrip, a small dock, and about 500 residents who cater to tourists. Our hotel is one of the largest with 10 rooms.

About 9:00 last night, Hubby and I were tucking into our room for the night after enjoying a day of sea and sun. The TV was on in the background. While in the bathroom treating our sunburns, we hear a woman shouting. I pop my head out to see if it’s the TV. Shouts turn to screams - “Help - Please - Somebody help!” Definitely not the TV. I dash into the courtyard to find a hysterical woman* trying to attract anybody’s attention. Her husband is turning blue. I know CPR, so I go to investigate.

The man is laying on the bed in their room. He’s obviously unconscious and… he’s not blue, he’s grey. HW is still screaming, so I don’t take the time to have someone get help because she’ll attract someone’s attention - I start assessing. Not responsive, no chest rise, no heart sounds. I start trying to clear an airway. Just as I tip his head back, a man comes in the room. “Are you medically trained?” I ask. He shrugs - “I’m a pharmacist… I’ve got CPR…” “I’m just CPR trained. You want to take the lead?” He says “Sure.” I’m still trying to clear his airway - he’s vomited and I can’t get it out. Two more faces appear at the door. I happen to know they’re medical students - I overheard them the day before at the pool talking about either nursing or doctor classes. I give them the brief.

The four of us lift the guy onto the floor, and the pharmacist starts chest compressions. The med students are manning head and feet, so I move out to find hotel staff. The bartender is with the growing crowd by the pool. I ask him to call a doctor. He says “I called management.” I repeat “You need to call a doctor RIGHT NOW - that man is not breathing.” Bartender shrugs helplessly - it’s obvious he’s not helping. One of the other guests pipes up: “There’s a doctor staying at two hotels down.” I reply “Please go get them right now.” She dashes off.

HW had gone into the room as I had headed out. I go back in the room to try and get information from her. We learn the man’s name is M and that he had been to the local clinic earlier in the day with chest pains and numbness in his arms. After dinner, he had taken some antacids and some migraine medication. Later we would learn this was not the whole story. HW keeps repeating “do something… somebody do something…” I do my best to keep her out of the way of the med students.

Next to arrive, what seemed like simultaneously, are the two nurses from the local clinic and the police. The med students start asking the nurses for equipment - suction, oxygen, an AED…anything they have that might help. One of the nurses runs off to the clinic (I assume), but the other nurse turns to the wife and says “Why didn’t you take him to the mainland like we told you?” Yeah, real helpful.

The woman doing compressions is sweating hard in the 85F heat and high humidity. I offer to spell her, but she asks instead that I try to get HW out of the room, and try to keep traffic to a minimum - it’s already crowded. She and breather will swap soon. During breaths, they keep turning M to try and clear his airway.

10 minutes in: The entire hotel has gathered by the pool. The police and the 2nd nurse are trying to find a way to get the man off the island. M is still grey, and continuing to vomit, but now there’s blood, too. I’m outside with HW, trying to keep her out of the way so everyone else can help M. The doctor arrives.

From here it gets chaotic. Doctor is briefed, and starts barking orders to the med students. Police have called a boat, but it’s more than an hour away. Guests keep trying to help - one has aspirin, another an epi-pen. HW ends up back in the room. Doctor asks for the story again. This time we learn he’d been “cranky sick” for a couple of days (still not the whole story.) The oxygen arrives (a huge cylinder with a breathing bag attached). Med students, pharmacist, and doctor are all still furiously CPRing. One of the cops tells HW “have faith - pray to the lord God and everything will be alright.” :rolleyes: Doctor asks HW if M has any allergies to drugs or latex. Negative. Has he been doing any drugs? Well, yes… he had four beers and smoked some weed (the whole story at last!) in addition to the Tums and migraine prescription. “But he’s been drinking and smoking all week!”

Doctor clears the room except med students and one cop - the AED is here. We can hear it talking from just outside the door where I’m trying to keep HW at bay so the AED can do its job. “Analyzing… shock recommended. Stand clear.” You could hear the thump as his limbs jolted and fell back to the floor. “Continue CPR…”

We’re now almost a half hour down now. The doctor sounds desperate - “you have to find a way to get this man off this island.” HW repeats that mantra to anyone who will listen, but there’s nothing. No more planes for the night, the boat is on is way. There may be a helicopter at the international airport on the mainland, but they can’t find the owner or a pilot. I’ve lost HW to begging the cops, the doctors, anyone to do something. The sensible clinic nurse pulls me aside. It’s not looking good. We need to find a phone that can be used to call the USA - HW is going to need support, even if M makes it. I find the hotel manager, who offers up his personal cel phone, with international dialing instructions. As I pass it off to the nurse, I hear the AED say “No shock recommended.” I look inside, hoping this means M’s heart is beating. Unfortunately the AED says “Continue CPR”. M is still grey, and the floor by his face is covered in foamy blood. The doctor shakes his head, and the med students stop CPR. “There’s nothing more we can do.” HW howls. Policeman bows his head. The doctor says something about calling it as I back out of the room. 45 minutes of care lead to nothing.

I go to my husband and hug him tightly. We go back to our room, knowing there’s nothing else we can do. I cry, he holds me. I’ve never seen a dead person before, let alone seen someone die. I don’t know M or HW. I hadn’t even seen them around the pool. But I can put myself in HW’s place, and it scares the crap out of me. I slept fitfully. At one point I woke up and heard noises outside. I looked out the window to see M’s body, covered in a sheet, being guarded by the same police from earlier. By morning the body is gone, their room is empty, and we’re packing for the next leg of our vacation. But I’m struggling to put this behind me. I’m hoping this helps. Anonymous internet therapy FTW.

tl;dr: A guy died at the hotel I’m staying at, despite our best efforts, and I’m
shaken by the experience.
*I call her “Hysterical Wife” meaning no disrespect. She had every reason to be hysterical. And I never found out her name.

Wow. Good on you for doing what you could. A lot of people would have not bothered to get involved.

You did everything right.

Many years ago I was a bystander when someone died and all I could do was keep out of the way, you were far more helpful, which I know isn’t really what your post is about.

I’m sorry this happened. It’s a shitty situation.

You did everything right.

What they said. You helped, and thank you for doing that. You gave him the best shot he had in that situation.

Oh my goodness, I’m so sorry.

But you did GOOD. You HELPED. You CARED. You didn’t freeze under pressure.

Everyone dies. Not everyone can be saved. Just know that you did a good thing for that man. And his wife, who will certainly remember that when her husband lay dying, there were complete strangers who went out of their way to help him.

Wow, what a terrible terrible thing to have happen. i can only echo what has already been said - you did everything right.

Good on you for trying.

Keep coming back to vent as needed!

You did everything you could which is so much more than most people do at these awful times. You deserve thanks and praise that you probably won’t get because of the situation. That was a kind and wonderful thing you and the others who helped did. I am truly sorry that the outcome wasn’t better. Poor woman.

Try to enjoy the rest of your vacation


I know it’s not much consolation, but from what you have described, it very well could be he ruptured an abdominal aortic aneurysm.
The grey color (was it, by chance, from the nipple line up?) and vomiting blood are signs. Also, the “cranky sick.”
You did everything right. It sounds like everyone did everything right, except the patient. Even then, he had only a slim chance, not being close to a center that has the ability to treat such a complicated illness.

Thanks for the supportive words. We’re headed to Guatemala for a couple of days, and I’m hoping the change of scenery combined with putting this down on (virtual) paper will do the trick. Airport wifi may be the last we see for a while, so I got this out while we waited for our flight. Life needs to keep moving on.

ETA: picunurse, I didn’t notice his chest color - they didn’t open his shirt until the doctor got there.

Me too. :frowning:
Kalea, it won’t matter one bit now, but all of you pulling together means you gave the wife one gift she’ll appreciate later: you spared her the pain of wondering "If only, if only … "

“If only I’d screamed louder, someone might have shown up…”

“If only someone medically trained had shown up, instead of that uncaring drunk…”

"If only someone had tried to do CPR, or brought oxygen … "

"If only … "

"If only … "

How awful, I’m sorry you had to experience that. Good on you for helping.

No idea what he died from but I highly doubt a few beers and some weed was part of the cause. He was probably going to die regardless.

Purplehorse said what I was thinking. You gave that woman an enormous gift, if not the one you were all hoping for.

Advice: Think of a lovely and comforting scene. Grandma’s kitchen, or a childhood play spot. Make a conscious decision that anytime the scene begins to play in your head you will choose to focus on your comfort scene instead. Remember that you are in control of what you choose to think about. You can’t control what pops into your head, but you can control what you focus on. Don’t let this become a tape that plays on auto-repeat.

So glad you were there to do all that you did. It sometimes only takes one caring person to lead a response, and get the mob moving in a helpful direction. Very well done indeed!

For the OP: {{{hugs}}}

Let me repeat what others have said: You did the right thing. You did everything you could. You never stopped trying to get more help. Thanks to you and the others you gave that man every possible chance to be saved, and later on his wife might well take comfort in knowing that everything possible really was tried.

Meanwhile - have a good rest of your trip. Life goes on. Enjoy yours to the fullest.

Unfortunately I suspect she’ll still be thinking “if only we’d gone back to the mainland like the nurses said.”

What a horrible thing to go through. You did absolutely everything you could.

I work at a little kiddie amusement park. 2 summers ago a perfectly healthy, 35 year old woman was on one of the kiddie rides with her husband and her son. She passed out on the ride and despite everyone’s best efforts, including the rescue squad, she died right there in front of her 3 year old son.

It was a terrible thing to witness. I know what you’re feeling. :frowning:

What a shocking experience to find yourself suddenly thrust into! Congrats on being so very awesome. Please don’t let this dampen your holiday. I am pleased you were off and away from there directly after. I count that a good thing.

I know you know this, but someone once told me such a thing at just the right moment and it helped me quite a bit, death is a part of life. We none know when it will be our time. This man died on vacation, that’s really not such a bad thing, when you think about it. It’s probably a very beautiful place.

Plus it sounds like they both chose to not immediately leave the island, which sounds like what the clinic told them. What grown adult isn’t aware that ignoring medical advise can cost you dearly?

You did everything right, you and everyone else on the scene, did what they could, to their best ability. The universe never expects any more.

You’re understandably moved by the experience, because you have a big heart. We all think you’re pretty awesome, so stay strong. Try not to let it colour your holiday!

Overall this sounds like an exceptional response on everyone’s part. CPR + oxygen + medically trained persons + AED + summoning emergency transportation goes FAR above and beyond the typical response to a cardiac arrest in a public location.

A Canadian study showed CPR was only being done in 15% of witnessed cardiac arrest events in public places. Even with instructions from a 9-1-1 dispatcher the rate only rose to about 35%. Most people will call emergency services and then wait for the “experts” to arrive and take over. You and all the others who tried to help did SO much more.

Kalea, you and your fellow bystanders did a great job.

The truth is that while CPR works, it doesn’t work often. I know career firefighters who have never had success with CPR and another who lists his stats at 2 for 40 tries, meaning he’s had only 2 successes with CPR. Sometimes the heart attack is just that massive. Sometimes, you arrive too late. And many times, we don’t know why it didn’t work. The important part is that you tried and that you did a good job of it.

Others reading this, don’t let it get you down. Because CPR really does work so it is worth learning and then applying those skills if the need arises.

If she dropped dead, she wasn’t perfectly healthy. THe only way someone who is perfectly healthy drops dead is usually with the intervention of guns or knives. [well, murder by something or accidental poisoning or some other accident that tends to be fatal.]