Surprise washed over him as he found himself lying on the hard tiled floor of a pharmacy in a small fishing village on the coast of northwest Sardinia, Italy. “What am I doing here?” he thought as people curiously gathered around him. He’d always been in good health and had never even seen the inside of a hospital. He planned this trip right down to the millisecond: hours at the beach, short forty minute runs, days spent with his loving family and weeks of total relaxation. The anticipation built for months in the minds of his family as they packed for their yearly vacation. His wife and children were excited to finally leave the concrete jungle and sink their toes into the warm Sardinian sand.
They had just finished unpacking the car and loading up the fridge with local delights when he said to his wife “I’m going for a run, the usual spot along the water. I’ll see you in an hour or so.” With a kiss to her check off he went. “Bye honey. Be careful.” He’d run this path before; every year for the past eight years he and his family made Sardinia their summer home. It was after all the place he proposed to his wife.
Thoughts of seadas, homemade gnocchi and horse steak danced in his head as he ran along the sandy path. He passed red granite cliffs that drop dramatically into the ocean, blooming wildflowers just springing to life and the little beach bar where she said “yes.” The salt air invigorated him, he felt young, indestructible and alive.
He turned the corner to complete the last stretch of his run, he could see the little beach bars which were teaming with fishermen waiting for their morning coffee, boats in the dock bobbing along on the warm water and the local pharmacy. All of a sudden he felt that something wasn’t right. He started to feel severe heartburn and put it down to the spicy Thai food from the night before. He kept running ignoring the signs until he began to feel nausea, dizzy and a heavy pressure in his chest. Something was definitely wrong, the little 4k was nothing compared to the marathons he’s run in the past. He knew the signs of a heart attack but couldn’t believe they were happening to him.
He ran straight for the pharmacy and once inside collapsed on the cold tile floor. He could see and hear everything that was happening around him. The young pharmacist ran to him, placing two fingers on his wrist and the other hand on his head. He tried to speak but couldn’t. All he wanted was an aspirin neatly tucked under his tongue and maybe he would be okay but she didn’t do that, she just patted his head and told him to hold on. A brave man finally pushed the pharmacist out-of-the-way and began CPR on the runner. Others gathered around to watch the spectacle, someone called an ambulance, then someone else called another ambulance while the others just stared.
“Stupid people, you see a man dying and you all just stand there and stare? Can I have some privacy while I possibly die please? Why don’t you all just piss off and leave me alone. I think I’m dying. Can someone please help me? Who’s this guy? Oh, CPR … well finally and thank you, I hope it helps. When’s the ambulance going to arrive? Why is it taking so long? Where’s that damn aspirin? Why is the pharmacist not giving me an aspirin? I’m pretty sure I’m having a heart attack all the symptoms are there but there’s no aspirin. Where’s the ambulance … when did that person make the call? If I don’t die from this, my wife’s going kill me! Oh shit, I can feel my heart quivering … oh please no, where’s the defibrillator?” All this ran though his mind as he lay on the floor of the small fishing village in Sardinia … dying.
“Where’s the defibrillator?” Asked the man who was giving CPR.
“There isn’t one.” Exclaimed the pharmacist.
Two ambulances were dispatched that day. Ambulance #1 from 10.9 kilometers away, about 16 minutes and Ambulance #2 from 37.1 kilometers away, about 50 minutes.
After driving the curvy, tourist laden mountain roads; Ambulance #2 was the first on scene, and they found a man in the prime if this life, dead on the floor of a pharmacy in a small fishing village in Sardinia, Italy.
All of the above information is second-hand, parts of this story are fiction. The truth of the matter is that a man in his 40’s felt sick, saw the sign for the pharmacy and sought help in a place he thought he could find it. There was no defibrillator available and it took one hour for an ambulance to arrive. Those are the facts.
I kept my eyes peeled on the daily newspaper hoping to find more on this mysterious man who passed away, but none came. There was never a write-up, an explanation nor even his name printed in memory.
It angers and embarrasses me that something like this could happen in 2013. How can a village which sees the number of people increase by the thousands during the summer months not have a defibrillator, why did the furthest paramedics arrive first, why wasn’t this man given an aspirin? There are too many whys which will forever be unanswered. My thoughts and prayers are with his family.
Do you know the signs of a heart attack and do you know what to do if you see someone having a heart attack? Check out this link from the Mayo Clinic: Heart Attack Symptoms for more information. It could save a life.
Related articles: A Dark and Quiet Truth a chilling true tale of life at the majestic Niagara Falls by one of my favourite bloggers The Hook.
Sadly, there’s a part to paradise which will always remain a somber secret.