Witnessing Death, Another Atheistic Experience

Friday I had an experience that unexpectedly further solidified my Atheistic position in life. I live 100 miles from my parents. Friday afternoon I had a appointment with a client in their area. So I intended to stay over night and planned on having dinner and drinks with one of my sisters and my Mom. How often does someone else pick up the tab to go visit family?

I picked up my mom in rural Custer Washington. We began to travel south to the local bar to hunt down some food. Frankly it's not good food. The bar floor is covered in pull tabs from gamblers hoping to turn their last $40 into $800. It's really a sign of broken dreams, or profit for the family that owns it depending on who you ask. As we are traveling there, we are south bound on a country road at a speed limit of 35 mph. As we are about halfway towards the bar, we are approaching a early 90's Volvo Station wagon. We are both doing 35 mph so we are approaching each other at 70. Soon the Volvo veers left into my lane about 200 feet in front of me. I think, "WTF are they doing?". It's out in the country so maybe they are setting up to check the mail? They are taking position for the driveway? Who knows. So I move into the left lane traveling south when she passes me on the right hand side as if we were in England. Later my Mom would say that she ducked thinking that we were about to collide. I just am looking to clear, so I didn't see how close it was. Frankly, my brain is fuzzy on a few details. As the driver flies by, clearly she's not stopping and she is going off the road.

The mail box flies as she get's off the road. She glances off the first tree, continues down the ditch and impacts a second tree. I get fully stopped and back up to the scene in my proper lane. I turn on the hazards. My mom gets out and dials 9-11. I get out come around, hop the ditch, and open the crashed cars driver door. The car is running with the wheels spinning so I turn off the ignition. The car is pitched to the right in the ditch so the driver is pitched hard right and slumped in between the seats. I can hear that she's struggling to get air. She's not responding to touch or voice so I lean over and see that her eyes are vacant. Lights on, no one is home. Against 911's directives to not move her, this woman's airway is compromised and since she's unconscious which might allow her tongue to block her airway, I move her to a vertical position so that she can get air. 

Her breathing is Agonal. They are deep, about 8 per minute, but very labored. She has a reasonable pulse. Within a minute or two of this, three Sheriffs are around. I'm holding the woman vertical, but I can reach in to let one of them in the back door. So now we are holding her vertical together. About two minutes from there, her breathing and pulse are fading. I look at the two sheriffs there with me and say, "You guys have a rescue breathing mask?" They are looking at me like deers in headlights. "Hey, we are going to have to breathe for this woman. Do you have a mask?" It seems like the "Aw... shit." clears and they say, "Yeah." Still no movement so I say, "I can hold her so go get it." Her radial pulse (wrist) is gone. I still have a carotid pulse. Her nail beds still change color quickly after being pressed, but her breath is gone so I'm shifting to getting ready to pull her from the car when the fire department gets there. Phew! It's now their show. 

What I learned from talking to the fire fighters is that I had taken the right steps, but maybe I could have pulled her right when the radial pulse left. It was a tough decision to decide when she's not effectively moving blood. Once that fade begins in that ongoing assessment, it came quickly and it was time to move. My only hold up was the sheriffs and what I learned later is that this department is very hands-off, so I should have just taken her myself. I told the paramedic what was going on and immediately it was, "It's time for her to come out."

They performed CPR for about 30 minutes. Pushed fluids, medicines, went into an automatic compression system, de-fibed, got nothing. After 30 minutes they pronounced her dead. The reality seems to be that she was dead when she left her lane while driving at us. 

The experience was yet another moment in my life where it was clear that there is no God and life just happens around us. There is no rhyme or reason to her dying on the road where she might have killed us. seriously, a 35 + 35 mph offset impact would be no bueno. If God was calling her, why make her body go through distress and not simply have it designed to just shut down? Instead it struggles and if there is any consciousness it involves pain.

Watching this woman die was no different than watching an animal slip away in the sense of how the body reacts. I was more anxious because she was getting to a point of really needing help and I was going to be it  before the big red trucks showed up. But there was nothing spiritual in the experience. There was nothing that spoke of outside influences. It just this lady had a heart attack, stroke or aneurysm and that was it. It was stark, cold, and much of the life that we all know, but some refuse to accept.

On the ironic side, I've been teaching CPR for just about a month now. It will add to my classes in relating an experience. It will add in deciding when the heart is no longer effectively pumping. No radial or brachial pulse, get on with it. Talking about pushing the chest down two inches and seeing what happens to the entire body while standing back is telling. I wish that there was something that I could have done for the woman, but outside of driving a ALS Aid Unit, my efforts only kept her alive close to when they arrived. But for those that don't want to get involved, the results might be different for you. You might be able to be the difference. Go and take a class and be that difference because no God is around to tell us when we'll need it.



Views: 47

Comment by Laura Jones on March 20, 2011 at 10:41pm
Hey Gaytor, sorry you had to go through that experience. I'm a nurse and I've been with dozens of people when they've died. Some deaths have been sudden, some have been long drawn out deaths, others have been brought back to life only to die again minutes later and still others have been brought back only to suffer. Once in a great while, we've resuscitated a person who went on to make a full recovery.  You're right, there's nothing spiritual about it.  "God" is not there.
Comment by Gaytor on March 20, 2011 at 11:02pm

Thank you everyone. I'm fine. I just witnessed the raw life that is out there that many of us don't see but once or twice in a lifetime. 

The composure side is interesting. I went into auto pilot. I wouldn't suggest that I was conscious about what I was doing, it was just the steps that I went through automatically. An example of the brain racing... I shut the car off and couldn't get the key out. I couldn't figure out why, then I just turned back to the lady and ignored the dinging door ajar alarm. Afterwards it was obvious that I just didn't have the car in park. 

Shine, especially with your boyfriend's condition, I would find a source that would teach you the CPR/AED segments. It's not difficult, but the compressions are physically tiring so even if you had someone that was able to help, they may tire quickly and need you to do it too. I hope that you never need it. AED's are down to about $800 or so, and it might be a worthwhile investment for you two. 

Comment by CJoe on March 21, 2011 at 12:44am

Jeez. This is intense. Definitely makes me aware that I should get CPR certified as well, and it's of some comfort to read that you just went into autopilot. My worry has always been that I would freeze up with or without training, but I guess the training just kicks in.

I hope you're really okay. I couldn't image seeing death up close. I simply haven't had many encounters with death. I know my luck, or whatever you call it, won't hold out. Sorry you had to witness this, and I hope you're mom is okay as well.

Comment by Gregor Basić on March 21, 2011 at 9:16am
I know I'm going to sound like a jerk, but I don't like when people turn someone else's tragedy in their own experience, after she died I wouldn't write a blog, I would find her family and tell only them about her last moments, it's the fastest way to cope with what happened and more private.
Comment by CJoe on March 21, 2011 at 9:38am

Greg, he was respectful enough not to use her name, right? This experience belongs to Gaytor as much as it does to the woman who passed. It's therapeutic to write about such an intense experience, and to share the feelings one has in the face of death. Everyday people use other people's tragedy's as fodder for entertainment (look at the coverage of Japan/Haiti/Egypt). He's not, however, trying to entertain or get clicks on his blog. He's sharing a vulnerable moment. So many people write spiritualism into stories like these; it's actually refreshing to read a story about death and dying without giving it some supernatural spin. It was a very sobering experience for him, and he treated her memory with respect. I think it's healthy to be able to relate and translate an experience for those of us who happen not to believe in the afterlife. Life is chaotic, and death is a part of it. Her death didn't just affect her or even those she loved.

Comment by Morgan Matthew on March 21, 2011 at 9:50am

Well said Cara.


Thanks for sharing this post Gaytor. I really enjoyed your insights. +1

Comment by Gaytor on March 21, 2011 at 10:15am
Greg, I don't think that you sound like a jerk. Her neighbor passed by and I gave my card to her in case the family had any questions. There hasn't been any contact as of yet.
I don't understand how a blog is inherently disrespectful. I don't understand how someone who was dead whom consciously didn't experience anything had an experience and I as a conscious person didn't. As for the good from it is to encourage others to get involved. Sure, I couldn't save her life. But if it would have been up to another family there or the sheriff's, she would have died even if she would have had a chance to live. I mean that as a core point and intend it as a benefit in sharing the story.
Comment by Gregor Basić on March 21, 2011 at 12:31pm

I didn't think your post was disrespectful, I talked about priorities, I didn't know (because you didn't write it till now) that you have contacted her family. I was just concerned about her family, because experience is for the living.


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