Don't Fall Asleep

I've spent the past two weeks scuba diving in Bali, Indonesia. This week, I'll be working towards becoming a certified rescue diver, which will include three days of underwater and surface rescue exercises among other required certificates. A prerequisite for the rescue course is to obtain certification as an Emergency Responder. So yesterday, Mark, my New Yorker-turned-Balinese scuba instructor, and I sat in the gazebo at my hotel reviewing my completed coursework and rehearsing responses to endless potentially life-threatening scenarios...from serious auto accidents to impaled persons to strokes and heart attacks to drowning victims.

Had I not taken such a keen interest in diving, chances are that I would have never considered becoming an Emergency Responder. After all, how many of us have actually had to respond to a situation where a life is at stake? As such, I initially viewed the course as a means to an end. But as I first leaned over "Annie" and delivered 30 forceful chest compressions, I couldn't help but visualize people I cared about and suddenly began to take the course much more seriously. By the end of the day I felt somewhat comfortable taking the necessary steps to ensure Annie had adequate care while awaiting professional help. And I wondered if I could react calmly in a real emergency.

Sometimes in the afternoons, I hang out at the warung (food/drink stand) on the outside of the first curve of Jl. Padang Galak, the street along which my 8-room hotel/house sits. I've taken a great liking to the Balinese family that pushes the cart there each morning by hand from their home 2-3 kilometers away. Komang, the eldest daughter, has taught herself English, and translates so that I can communicate with her family and the occasional customer that drops by for a snack or a soda. As I sat there the day following my EFR course, I contemplated writing to you regarding the 78 year-old Balinese man that stopped by and narrated to me his abridged life story - one that included a visit in 1966 from an 18 year-old son he had never met.........but when a motorbike sped by, hit a large rock in the road and missed the curve where the stand sits, violently wrapping itself around a tree, the priority of topics changed.

I jumped up from my seat at the stand and accelerated from a walk to a jog. "I'm sure the person is OK," I thought. Perhaps he/she was catapulted into the rice paddy and is sitting among the frogs laughing. That'd be funny...but as I approached the scene, I found a middle-aged man lying on his side at the base of a palm tree in a state of shock; eyes fluttering and an outward creeping pool of blood surrounding his head. I naively yelled to a bystander: "Call for help!" Then I remembered a conversation with Mark several days prior, during which he explained to me that in Bali, there's really no one to call...

I leaned over the man and quickly recited the steps of the "Lifeline" in my head: "A" - airway open (yes); "B" - breathing (gasping, but yes); "C" - circulation (since he was breathing, yes); "D" - defibrillation (not necessary); "S" - shock management, serious bleeding management, spinal injury management (all three were necessary). Since I thought it likely that the man had a spinal or neck injury, however, I simply left him on his side, kept his head steady with my hands, and repeated to him: "Hang in there...You're going to be OK." The few minutes I kneeled there within a growing circle of local bystanders felt like an eternity, and as I softly spoke to him, I watched as the red pool beneath his head continued to swell. I looked at my glove-less hands and selfishly couldn't help but recall: "The three bloodborne pathogens of greatest concern to Emergency Responders are Hepatitis B, C, and HIV."

A pickup truck approached and the circle opened. Four men reached down, each haphazardly grabbing a limb, and I moved as a unit with them, keeping his head stabilized as they dropped him onto the bed of the truck. Then they were gone.

I walked back to the warung and kneeled for a moment. I was nauseous. Komang poured water over my hands as I rubbed them together.

An hour later, I was on my way to an all-night party in the mountains/forest an hour north of the beach with a couple of local friends. At around 11pm, after a long bath in the local hot springs, I laid down in a damp bungalow nearby. The deafening thumps of techno music began to resonate throughout the forest and I drifted to sleep.

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Andrew_Mehlhorn said…
Heyzeus kreesetoe, Brandon. Where to begin? It's been a few weeks since I've checked in on your blog and needless to say I'm shocked at what I read. So now you're onto emergency response and rescue diving? I must admit I did not see that coming. Isn't it fascinating how when you wonder something about yourself, life will catch you with your pants down (often literally) and present you with the perfect opportunity to provide yourself with an answer? You're particular life is taking you on quite the interesting and circuitous path, my friend. I'm intrigued to see where it will lead to next. Keep your head up and eyes open bro. Sleep well. One love.