When paradise turns deadly – Sardinia’s Somber Secret

Jennifer Avventura 2012 (15)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.

Author’s note:

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.

14 thoughts on “When paradise turns deadly – Sardinia’s Somber Secret

  1. We were lucky. My wife required an ambulance when we were in Sardinia in June, staying in Villasimius. It arrived within 15 minutes. I guess the northwest of Sardinia is more remote?

    • It really shouldn’t be that remote, with a station in almost every town. I think it was just bad, sad luck.

      Best wishes to your wife and I hope she received the treatment she needed.

  2. Pingback: From 2009 When I thought was gone | Primal Night's

  3. It is indeed scary..and just as it was said on Facebook could happen anywhere but just as well as in the place that you now call home. Sometimes we overlook these minor things when we dream of visiting or even living in a country such as Italy. But at least you are wise to it now and sharing with the world….possibly can help lead up something that informs others on how to treat cardiac arrest..not sure

  4. Jennifer

    Very scary and yet so true, hopefully your well written account of this will help people in Sardegna and other countries to assist in life or death situations. Keep sending it out there! We can only pray that it will change for the better. Your story was so amazing, you had my attention from the start.
    The Sard/American

  5. It is such a reminder to those of us that travel – we may not get the kind of help in some places that we have in our homes. One of the first few things that my husband and I asked when we were considering buying our house in Sicily was – is there an English speaking doctor, how close is the nearest hospital, what is the ambulance service like. We are both in good health but we are also in our 50s, not far away from the time when things can go wrong. A beautifully written and moving story. Thanks for sharing with us.

    • Thank you kindly, Diane. I wasn’t sure which voice to use in this story and I didn’t want to seem like a know-it-all. I appreciate your encouraging words on my writing. 🙂

  6. Very well written Jennifer. However sad, truth must be written so these things do not happen in the future.. so sad a life was lost in this manner 😦

  7. I thought my tale was intense, but your sober truth is chilling, powerful and wonderfully written, Jennifer. All-too often we willingly turn our heads from real-life horror and so we are content to let others cover such tragedies up.
    Something needs to change in our world in regards to how we value life, but I don’t know if it ever will.
    Thank you for sharing this.

    • Both of our stories are sad tales of an untimely death. You’re right, something does need to change, but I also don’t think it ever will. We just need to continue to write about it.

  8. Wow! Unbelievable! I really hope this one a one-off! It’s true however, that many times people don’t seem very prepared here, let alone the lack of amenities, services, and in this case, a defibrillator…in a pharmacy!!! Absurd! I say it time and time again, I LOVE being here in the summer but I just couldn’t live here all year round, for this and many other reasons.

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