Sunday, March 27, 2016

Dying in my arms

He staggered into David and was incoherent.  He was asking where he was and waving his phone around like a mad man.  David just looked confused.  I was worried that it was someone trying to extract money out of him with a sad story.

It was 12:30 a.m. in Times Square. We were about to go out on the town.  David, his brother, and a family friend, were stopping at a food cart for some halal food (meat kabobs and rice).  There were still thousands of tourists walking up and down the street.

I came closer to ask the guy to back off and he thrust his cell phone into my hand.

"I'm dying, please tell 911 where I am."

He then collapsed at my feet, his wheeling suitcase falling by his side.  The 911 operator was asking where we were, between what two streets.  I had no idea.  I gave her an exact address, "We are in front of Madam Tussauds, 234 West 42nd street."

"I understand sir, but I need to have the cross streets."

"This man is lying at my feet moaning and saying he is having a heart attack, has a history of heart attacks, you need to send an ambulance now."

"I need to know what the cross streets sir."

"I've given you an exact address.  I don't know the cross streets."

"Please stay on the line for a paramedic, and what number are you calling from, area code first."

"This guy just handed me his cell phone, I have no idea."

Then the operator hung up.

At this point, someone bumped into David and knocked his food out of his hand spilling rice and chicken pieces all over this poor man's body.

A lady stopped and took his pulse.  She told him he was fine and was having a panic attack.  I asked if she was a nurse, and she would only reply that she was "in the field."  Her boyfriend started yelling at her to get up and let the ambulance take care of it that this wasn't her job.

New Yorkers kept stepping on this guy even though I was trying to get them to go around him.  It's the middle of the night, but the place is still crawling with people.  Tourists stop and ask if he is ok.  I don't know how to respond.  He is howling about a heart attack, holding onto his right arm and rocking back and forth.  You can easily know who were the the tourists.  They were genuinely concerned and offered to help me.  The New Yorkers just stepped over, and in some cases on this poor man.

I tried to get him to breath easily and to sit up.  I'm not a doctor, but I didn't want him trampled.
There were a dozen cops on horses in the area.  They started yelling at him and me.  They wanted him to move.  That was it.  No idea that he was down.  Finally, they got a radio that someone had called an ambulance.  They came over and made everyone move.  They were not nice to this man or to the people who had helped him.  They stood over him and yelled at him to tell them his name.  They yelled questions at him that had nothing to do with his health.  They didn't even direct tourists around him.  I knelt down in spite of their objections and put his cell phone in his pocket.  I told him where it was and waited for the ambulance.

In less than 10 minutes, an ambulance from Mount Sinai St. Luke's showed up.  The police didn't help direct them or move traffic for them.  New Yorkers rarely move for emergency personnel.  They didn't here either.  Even though the police on horses knew where this guy was and he could have been having a heart attack, they let the ambulance pull into the wrong spot a block down.  I was about to wave them down when they moved again.

I made sure that the EMTs knew what I could tell them and that they took his suitcase.

I pray that this man is ok.  It really messed up my evening.  I was tired anyway and took the subway home instead of going out with David's friends.

Nights like Friday night make me really appreciate small town NY and not NYC.

At least the man didn't die there in my arms.

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