Thursday, July 10, 2014

heart attacks at the library

please be kind to this post. I had a really hard time writing it, for some reason. 

Once upon a time (last summer), I was working a shift at the library.

It was a pretty boring shift, actually, and as I shelved my books I probably cast more than one wistful glance at the clock, wishing I could go home and read. (That's probably a pretty ironic thing to wish when you're working at the library, of all places, but this is how I live my life.) I was so absorbed in my cart of books (and the K-L shelf) that when a patron poked his head around the end of my shelf to talk to me, I jumped.

He was really...hyper. Which is not an emotion that you normally associate with adults, but he was. He practically bounced up to me, asking me all kind of questions about my job and how old I was and what school did I go to because wow, I looked like I should have been a lot older than high school! Like, he thought I was seventeen years old! (yeah, I was confused too.)

I was starting to wonder if I should be frightened, but he bounced away again, so I went back to my books; and that's where I was when a few minutes later, I overheard one of the librarians calling for an ambulance.

My heart rate picked up immediately, because hello, I had trained for this. As a lifeguard, it was my legal duty to assist in any emergency, (I'd received my certification only weeks earlier, so I was taking myself pretty seriously. I mean, I still do, but whatever.) I remember rounding the corner of the shelf, heart in my throat, and seeing this man who'd been talking to me only a few minutes earlier in obvious distress. In only five or ten minutes, he'd gone from a happy, energetic (albeit slightly odd) man, to this profusely sweating, trembling wreck in front of me. Our children's librarian was trying unsuccessfully to calm him down, needing to get back to the desk for some reason that I cannot remember, when I stepped forward.

-insert heroic action or something-

But seriously, I kind of mumbled and was like, "I'm a lifeguard? Do you want me to...I'll stay with him?"
Confident, I know.

Anyways, back to my story. We're trained pretty heavily when it comes to heart attacks, because they're not uncommon, and in a lot of ways this was exactly what I was used to in training. But they didn't tell us that our victims (that seems like such a horrible word to use. Patients, maybe?) would be totally incoherent. They didn't explain to us what to do when the person we're trying to save stumbles to their feet, sweat running down his forehead, and states that he "needs to go home, I'm causing you too much trouble."
No one told me what is the best way to explain to someone that no, they really can't leave, and actually could they please sit back down immediately?

So, because there's really not a whole lot you can do for a heart attack victim, (that word again, ugh) I took his pulse and talked to him, convinced him not to go home (!!) and made sure there was a garbage can nearby in case his nauseousness got any worse.

And when I started to calm down, I remembered all the questions that I should have been asking immediately, and burst blindly out with
"Do you have any pain anywhere?"
to which he groaned, clutching his chest "my heart!!" (to my credit, I meant besides his heart, but I still felt pretty dumb.)

After several minutes of pulse-taking, and random questions-

to a random lady who had stopped to help: "are you a doctor?"
to me: "are you a librarian?"

-the medics arrived and took over, and I faded into the background, standing against the shelves. My heart rate eventually slowed back down to normal, and the trembling in my knees began to fade. I rushed promptly off to the staff room to wash my hands, worrying about all of the potential diseases that I had exposed myself to by not wearing gloves. (where I would have found gloves in this particular situation, I don't know.)

After rehashing the whole thing with my work friends, I sent big long emails out to my besties, because this was pretty big and exciting. (the whole email was one big run-on sentence with no capitals and a lot of punctuation errors, so be glad you're not getting that version. I was pretty wound up.)

And that, friends, is my big, exciting claim-to-fame story about The Man Who Had A Heart Attack At The Library.

let's talk. leave me a comment (or four), maybe?



  1. Wow, that's quite some story! Well done for stepping up when you were needed! X

    1. Oh my gosh, four comments. O.O I didn't think you'd all take me literally!! :p and yeah, Anna, it was so crazy. I didn't really do too much, but it was quite an...experience!!

  2. Wow that is rather cool but scary too, I have done first aid training but really hope I never have to use it!

    1. In Australia we call them casualties not victims...

    2. That's the perfect way to describe it, Clare! Cool but scary. Which first aid do you have? Are you a lifeguard?

      Casualties! That's a good word, too. in training we called them "victims," and asked them to "die" for us, so I'm stuck in that rather morbid rut, lol.

  3. Woah! That must have been scary. You did wonderfully! It's awesome that you are trained and can help people in emergencies...and that it already has come in handy. Did you hear later if the guy ended up okay?

    1. Oh! Closure, Olivia, duhhh. He ended up needing a heart transplant, but after that he was okay, and although I've never seen him again, I believe he is still doing well!

  4. Wow, that sounds . . . scary. Good job for having the confidence to step in there and doing something.


Comments from you make my day! ♥ True story.