5/31/10

Fluttering Heart

Yesterday a man died on Silver Beach in St Joe, Michigan. Here is my experience of it.

I was on the beach with a group of friends, it was close to 90 degrees and sunny, and the sand was scalding hot. So hot that despite the dense sprawl of people enjoying the day and the cold water, the multiple volleyball courts - usually packed - were empty.

Mike & Sarah left to go for a walk in town, and when they got close to one of the entrances to the sand, they found a man laying face down in the sand. Other people noticed him too, and somebody rolled him over and discovered that his bowels had vacated. Pete G and Liz, both nurses, began assisting another nearby nurse in assessing his vital signs. As Dan B and I became aware of the situation, Dan suggested that perhaps our umbrella would help with what we presumed was some degree of sun stroke. I took the umbrella over and held it angled to shade the mans face and chest, and I remained there until the later-arriving paramedics took him away.

The three nurses began administering CPR. Liz poked a hole in a ziploc bag so that Pete could perform sanitary mouth-to-mouth. He appeared to be in his 50s and had a scar across his sternum. His wife who had been down by the water while he went to the bathroom eventually came and identified him, and that he had had multiple open heart surgeries before and was scheduled for a valve-replacement in two weeks. She was crying and very upset, and Liz was comforting her while assisting Pete. Others from our group were farther back, praying. We were all praying, especially those of us who didn't feel that we were helping in any other way. There were also lots of people gathered around. The closer they were to the center, the quieter they were.

Two police officers arrived and took over CPR from Pete. It was a relief to see Pete and Liz knowing what to do and smoothly handing it off to the officers. The officers continued CPR and prepared the AED they had. It indicated that he was not shockable. A few minutes later two paramedics arrived and took lead on the CPR, allowing the officer to continue with the chest compressions. They tried an oxygen mask with a pump, and a device for clearing his airway. They hooked up some IV fluids and allowed Pete to hold the bag up for them. A park staff member brought a medical board for them to use to load the man - Craig - onto their gurney to wheel him up the path and into their ambulance.

Afterward, our group stood together and collected ourselves and prayed together for Craig and his wife Donna and the paramedics. We cleaned up some of the defecation and the scrap paper and plastic from all the sterilized medical equipment that was used. We ended up staying at the beach for another 30 minutes or so. I don't yet know if or when he was pronounced dead.

I am thankful that we were nearby, of all the places we could have been on that packed beach. I am praying about ways we could have more boldly trusted in the Lord and acted with the power of the Holy Spirit. But I think we have to remain focused on today more than yesterday.

(Update: I was a little vague. His heart was varying between "fluttering" and not beating the entire time we were there, and he never breathed.)

(Update 2: His name is Craig Shreiner and there is a guestbook you can read.)