This morning has been really busy. A builder working on the flat upstairs had an accident, a stroke, and shouted for help. He was on the flat roof above us, and when we’d got there he was down on all fours. I’d tried to comfort him and make sure he didn’t hurt himself while we waited for an ambulance.
The man told me that his name was Michael, that he’d been in hospital the week before after suffering from a suspected heart attack. He asked if his mouth was dribbling, then was shocked when I’d went to wipe it clean with my shirt and asked that I use his jacket instead: he didn’t want me put out of the way.
Michael told me that he didn’t think he was going to be okay and started to cry. I’d tried to keep him calm, laughed with him and said that after this was over we were going to go for a drink. He’d told me that he couldn’t, but I said that didn’t matter; he could have a coke and I’d have two.
Michael asked what my name was before looking straight at me, the only real lucid point of the conversation, said I was a “canny lad” and shortly after passed out. This would be the last thing Michael said to me that day.
The ambulance got here real quick, though they were trapped in the porch of our apartment building because the landlady deadbolted the front door. My partner went to flag them down and left it on the latch, but the landlady has this thing about “safety”… Everyone has their own idiosyncrasies, and usually this isn’t a problem. So usually, I don’t blame her too much; she is a scared, little, approaching-old-age lady. But when actions endanger another person’s life, it is too much. I will not forget my girlfriend telling me how she banged on the front door while the ambulance men brayed her window, explaining what’s happening. She did nothing. Thankfully, another tenant decided to head down and see what was holding everyone up.
After being able to get to us, the team worked very fast and very precise. They’d measured his vitals while he was sprawled out, now in the recovery position. They’d asked that I hold an oxygen mask in place, and it was only really then that I noticed my hands were shaking. I was scared. I was really fucking scared, and I’d only just noticed.
The ambulance team decided the best way to get out and on the way to the hospital was via our fire escape, though the stairs were steep and Michael’s van was blocking the exit. We searched for the keys and found his phone, a paramedic despairing after checking and finding it passcode protected. Eventually we came across what we were looking for and I volunteered to run down and move it — it was much more useful that the medics were dealing with Michael. I moved it out of the way, and just as I was doing this another ambulance was pulling around the corner.
Together, we ran back up to an increasingly worried team, Michael now having tubes inserted into both his nose and throat to keep airways open while at the same time having sick removed by the other paramedic. A HART team arrived and everyone began discussing the best way to get him down the stairs. “We’ve been here about half an hour”, one of them said — we had? It seemed like only a short while to me — “and onset was only ten minutes before that. We’re still in the window, so we can still do this. Ideally we can winch him down over the side… Can we get the firebri-”
“They’re on strike”, another cut in “and the response unit is dealing with a cardiac in Heaton. We can’t wait on them” I’m still not sure how I feel about this. But off they went, attaching Michael to a stretcher. Around this point, the estate agent got here — Amy had called Baskeys to see if anyone could give us more information about Michael — and, particularly, one exchange that stands out to me was this: One of the paramedics asked our landlord “did you know him?”
The emergency response medic cut in “do you know him. Do. He’s still here, don’t talk like that.”
They’d began taking him down the firescape, the corners being so tight that he had to be manouvered around them standing up, but they’d made it. Eventually, they’d gotten to the bottom and had him in the ambulance — just as the incident response unit was arriving to winch Michael down — and took him away. The remaining men thanked us, and we thanked them.
And that was it.
I’m sorry this ending is abrupt, but there is no satisfaction to be had. It is, at time of writing, still ongoing. I hope he is okay. I sat in the hallway of my flat afterwards, only then really letting things wash over me, and thought about everything. The whole incident took an hour, perhaps an hour and a half in total, but it had only seemed like a few minutes to me. I’m okay, though. I am.
Here are some of the things I’ve been thinking about. The first one, and the most important one, is that Michael shouted twice. I heard the first time and looked out of my window, spying nothing and putting it off as maybe someone playing up. The second time, I went out to figure what was going on. I feel incredibly guilty about this, it may have only made a half minute difference, but sometimes this is enough. I let myself and Michael down by waiting, and the time that it had taken me to get there may have made a changed the outcome [note: at present I still do not know what has happened to him since. He may very well be okay, but that won’t stop me from feeling the way I do].
The second thing is all about his phone. It was locked, and there was no way to contact anyone. This has been the first time I’ve genuinely considered unlocking my phone; so what if someone picks it up and looks through my messages? Should I ever be unfortunate enough to be in a similar circumstance, at least people could be in touch with my family. Another point about this: Michael’s phone actually went off, a text from his partner (saved in his phone as “ICE The Wife”) while I was there. It said “did you go? Are you okay?” It wasn’t until afterwards that I really understood this: Michael knew he was unwell. He knew he was unwell, and he was actually going to get help before he fell ill. This really got to me, what could he have been thinking at the time? His partner doesn’t even know where he is now, because nobody was able to get in touch with her.
The final thing I have been thinking about is how genuinely grateful I am to the emergency services. Without their care, their response and their training things would have been much worse than they ended today. I am often critical about the United Kingdom as a country, and never patriotic, but I am truly humbled by the service these people provide on a daily basis.
Since these events, I have been washing my hands. They smell like sick, although I didn’t actually get anything on me. I just can’t shake the feeling. I haven’t been able to eat, and I’ve only just stomached a cup of tea. This post has been my attempt at catharsis, a way of release. I still think there’s a lot of thinking to be done, and the happenings today have definitely affected me, both negatively and positively, as a person.
Should I hear anything about Michael, I will be sure to share.