I remember the look on his face as he whispered the words. I remember staring intently at his lips as if I couldn’t hear a word he was saying. I gave him a quick smile. The kind of smile you give a friend after you’ve done them a favor. No need for even a pause. Then, I gave my seat belt a little tug, and it started to hit me. He had whispered the words, “you just saved my life.”
We were on our way back to the station after shooting a story at a used tire shop and waste transfer station. My idea, of course. It was a friday, and it felt like it. He was hungry and opted for fast food. I tried to convince him otherwise, but the smell coming from my vinegar cole slaw salad from Whole Foods probably didn’t help my cause in the least.
A few bites in, the car jerked and the mysterious red drink he had just taken a big gulp of went everywhere. We flew off the interstate and came to a screeching halt on the shoulder as he tried to catch his breath. I stumbled out of the car after him into the grass. Was he throwing up or choking? Our intern, who is now probably scarred for life, yelled, “give him the Heimlich,” and well, that’s what I did. His face was starting to lose color.
It was not easy. He’s six feet tall. I was wearing heels that were clearly too high for the steep shoulder that was covered in weeds and tall grass. Each time, I pushed back hard on his abdomen, I realized I would need to get him on the asphalt if I was going to get any more leverage.
What a relief.
He started to talk again between some coughing. I drove us back, hands clenched to the wheel, saying ridiculous things to lighten up the heaviness that hung inside our car. He went to the hospital, and I went back to work. Soon after I’d get a text that will forever go in my file of favorites.
“Ever saved anyone’s life before? Well now you have and I’ll never forget it.”
It forced me to process what had just happened, and I was grateful. So grateful he was okay, but I didn’t feel confident as I played the “what if” game. What if it hadn’t worked? My first aid certification that I got on a whim in Knoxville had long expired, and I couldn’t recall every detail about proper technique. If my job has taught me anything, it’s that anything can happen to anyone at any time, and it’s not always pretty. My first aid book that rides with me wherever I go will now have plenty more folds. You never know when something, anything is about to happen. You just never know so take a class, sharpen your skills, read up… Just in case it’s you next time.