Close friends who've heard what happened would phrase it differently, and some have even said the very opposite - that on the morning of Tues June 1st, I saved a girl's life.
Yet it doesn't change how I feel - the nagging, second-guessing of how I may have made different choices that might have resulted in keeping someone alive - Red Cross first-aid training or no.
But I am getting ahead of myself. I should start from the beginning.
Tues, June 1st - I'm waiting at a coffee shop somewhere in San Francisco to interview a prospective employee when I heard the screech of tires on pavement in the parking structure ahead of me. Adrenaline kicks into overdrive as I rush to the scene, where I found two early-20s women prone on the ground (one on asphalt, the other on the sidewalk) apparently struck by the vehicle that roared by at triple the posted limits.
The human body has about ten pints of blood, and a lot of it was pooling on the ground, growing at a frightening pace. I spoke briefly with the two gals on the ground, who were both conscious and coherent (I asked if they recognized what happened and they could both say their own names and DOBs). They were bleeding badly from both the head and abrasions along their body when they were tossed from the vehicular hit.
I encouraged them to sit still as to not aggravate any potential spinal injuries, and told them help was on the way.
We were told during my Red Cross first-aid training that he most important thing to do in an emergency medical situation is to find someone more qualified than you, if possible - so I immediately ran back into the coffee shop and stood on a table to announce: "WE HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY OUTSIDE. IS ANYONE HERE A NURSE, DOCTOR, PARAMEDIC, FIREFIGHTER OR OTHER TRAINED FIRST-RESPONDER?"
Everybody just stared for a moment, and then went back to their coffee.
This means my three-month-old Red Cross First Aid certification makes ME the most qualified person right now, and I felt terribly inadequate to the task. The coffee shop's clerk raised his hand and told me he had a first-aid kit in the back.
"Grab it, and I'll get two bags of ice and come with me - there are two victims with serious injuries we have to take care of. Go."
We run outside, where a crowd had begun to gather around the two girls - and as the coffee shop clerk and I were beginning to administer first aid (stemming the loss of blood, putting ice on the swelling on the head that was already rising as we watched) co-workers of the two gals (they apparently worked at a hair salon across the street) started pouring out - as soon as the victims' friends saw their co-worker covered in blood, they began SCREAMING in horror and crying.
Not good, not good, not good.
The two victims are still conscious, and seeing their own colleague in such an agitated state could only aggravate their emotional state. As much as I wanted to tell them to shut up, it would not be the smart play - while on hold with the CHP with my cell phone, I ran across to the co-workers and offered them:
"I know you're freaked out - I am too. But the way to help your friend and give her the best chance of surviving this is to stay calm - if she sees you agitated, it's going to raise her blood pressure even further and possibly send her into shock. Would you please tell her it's going to be ok?"
They nodded their understanding and I went back to the girls. Beyond bandaging the obvious wounds to slow the loss of blood and icing the obvious swelling, there was not much else one could do, and I waited what felt to be an eternity while distant sirens grew louder and louder until a firefighter truck appeared on the scene.
The calvary, at last. Yes!
I approached the first firefighter who got out of his truck and explained what first aid I administered so far, what I observed in terms of the gal's conditions, and expressed my relief that a real professional was on hand to relieve us amateurs.
In the next 15 minutes, the rest of the First Responder contingent converged on the scene - paramedics, police (both city and county) and another firefighter truck. As the girls were secured in spine-protecting braces and hoisted into the ambulance to be rushed to the ER, what appeared to be the lead police officer (he had sergeant stripes on his sleeve) took me aside and told me he needed to speak with me to ask what I witnessed.
I told him I was waiting for a prospective employee who was going to meet me at the coffee shop in about 10 minutes, to which he lowered his voice and said "I just spoke with the paramedics and one of the girls will not likely make it through the night. We need to interview you now as this might be a vehicular manslaughter case. In fact, we need to leave right now for a video deposition while your memory is still fresh."
For the first time that that morning, I felt dizzy and had to sit down. The entire video-interview at the police station was a blur, and I was given the officer's business card and told he might follow up in a few weeks.
I don't even know the gal's names - and I did everything I remembered the Red Cross training told us we should do.
And it was not enough.
Did I let her die?
Intellectually, I know it's foolish to take responsibility for her death - but emotionally, I can't help but feel the weight of her life in my hands. I have long suspected I did not have the mental makeup to be in the medical profession, and this crystalized it. Experiencing this on a regular basis would tear me apart.
Even now, two weeks later, I still have dreams about the two bloody girls on the ground, crying for help, as pools of blood blossom around their bodies.
And thus we come to the riddle: Why do two dead girls keep resurfacing in my dreams?
And what can I do to quell them?