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Archive for May 14, 2023

May 14, 2023 — In the shadow of death

Last evening, a guy a know, Dave, emerged from an alcove at the place where a few hundred of us were swing dancing.

Dave, one of the most mild-mannered gents I know, was yelling at the top of his lungs and had a near-manic look in his eyes. I had absolutely no idea what he was saying, but I heard people around him saying, “We need a doctor!”

In that alcove was an older man whose eyes were closed and was slumped back in his seat, his skin ashen.

I sped across the front of the stage as some of the people following Dave out of the alcove stopped the live music and asked for a doctor.

Having gone through the experience I went through in August of 2018, when I saw a man die at a similar event, I realized that there was one thing I needed to do. You see, in the instance of the August 2018 event, there was no portable defibrillator on site; it took several minutes for someone to go down the street to the pizza parlor and get one. Since then, I have been much more aware of the need for one at many public places I frequent.

This includes this vintage ballroom, which I knew had gotten a portable machine sometime in late 2018.

The problem was, I didn’t know where the thing was. I looked on the wall leading the loading dock, but only found a first-aid kit.

I stepped into another alcove with steps leading to the lobby when I saw a white box bolted to the wall. I opened the box, took out the black bag and instructions for the portable unit, and rushed it over to the stricken man’s side. I left the vicinity to let two medical professionals take charge until the ambulance came.

I brooded over the entire experience for the next few minutes. The man who had fallen ill, who I’ll call Rob, is a long-time volunteer within the dance community, always willing to help out with one of the jobs that many people didn’t want, which was to sweep dustbunnies off the floor and help ensure the room was tidy for the next group using the ballroom the following afternoon.

After a number of years of doing this work, he stopped volunteering at the start of the pandemic, only coming back a few months ago, but he changed his preferred volunteer hours to be earlier in the evening.

I don’t know what has happened to him; all I saw was him lying on a gurney being rolled into an ambulance with a mask over his nose and mouth.

It is events like these which make me pledge to cherish every moment and to not waste time on trifles or unproductive issues.

“Seize the day,” it is said.