Wednesday 23 August 2023

An Emergency On Holiday - CPR

Before I share the good parts of the holiday I wanted to write down a story from our time away that isn't really very positive. I write things up here, sometimes to share, sometimes as my own form of therapy, and sometimes as a record. 

This is more to get it out of my head and on to the page. It took a bit of decompressing afterwards, in fact it still does. 

I'm a firm believer that no one remembers mediocre times, you remember the good and the bad. It forms you. And this is one of those that I'm sure I'll always remember, but not because it was a happy holiday memory. 

Our holiday was self catering, thankfully - I should add as, restaurants are few and far between and for 5 of us to eat out it would break the bank each time. Even shopping in the supermarket was expensive, although I always think it's a bit of an adventure shopping in a foreign land, looking at the different food and through it their culture. 

On this particular day we drove up to the nearest supermarket to our cabin. It was brand new with a huge parking lot, we parked along the side and walked in. 

My Middlest and I were having a little falling out (her too stroppy, me too hot headed), so as we walked in my wife went off with the other two while we had a chat. Just as we started to talk I heard a bang from behind us. I lifted my head and turned to see what had happened. 

There were two people on the ground, one an elderly lady (probably in her 80's) and a large man (probably in his 50s). I ran over and shouted for help, Telling my daughter to go and find her mum and stay with her. At first I went to the old lady and seeing she was awake I looked over to the man, he was out cold. I went over to him, shouting again for help seeing blood on the floor. I tried to get him to come back round. He lifted his head and got up on all fours, before he went ridged and collapsed again, he was too heavy to catch and I wasn't quite close enough. As he went down he hit his head hard on the supermarket floor. 

A young woman from the store came over and I tried to get more help she tried to get him in to the recovery position. He was just too big so she asked me for help. It took all my strength to roll him into position, and hold him there, his limp body didn't behave like bodies had in any first aid training I'd ever had in the past. 

Another woman came over and asked in Norwegian what had happened, when I spoke English to her she instantly switched. Another phoned the emergency services while they checked for signs of life. To start with he was breathing in short ragged breaths but this then stopped. The young woman from the store asked if I knew how to check for a pulse, but I could remember from my first aid training that it's not always much use, especially when your own heart is racing. Better to look for signs of life which seemed not to be there at that moment. 

The woman who had made the call then got told by the emergency services to start CPR, she passed the phone and rolled him over and started chest compression, while another woman positioned herself by his head to start the breathing part of the CPR. She was made to count out loud as she did the compressions, 30 to every two breaths. I asked the young woman, Helne to get the first aid kit to get a face mask for the breathing, but the other lady started before she could get back. 

After a few rounds of chest compressions I took over, probably a little too fast at first. But the other lady counted in English for me so the lady on the phone could hear us doing the compressions. Helne had come back form the store with a razor and shaving foam, so I assumed someone had gone to get a defib. 

Another man came in then, he had gone straight away to get the Defib machine when it had all started, so we cut the man's shirt off and they positioned the pads on his chest while we waited for the machine to start it's beeping cycle. We didn't use the razor or cream as the lady on the phone said not to. 

the defib talked out loud in Norwegian but I could tell the pitch of the machine had changed and they all told me to step back while it shocked him. The pulse made his whole body convulse and I hoped he'd come back breathing heavily to life like you see in the movies, but he didn't. So we started on the compressions again and waited for the machine to do it's thing, taking turns on the chest compressions. The other lady went back to breathing for him 2 breaths in every 30 compressions, his mouth was white with froth at this point. 

He was shocked two more times with this machine, his body moving quickly to the impulse, then two firemen came in. I think they must have relief firemen as Norway is so spread out. They had a different defib machine which they set up and put a tube in his mouth to aid the breathing, pushing it in and turning it round as it got to the back of his throat. I went to move out the way, but the one fireman asked me to stay to take over when he got tired, the guy we were doing CPR on was big and I think my own "muscled" frame helped to do the compressions. The other fireman was dealing with the breathing fitting a proper mask now to the tube in his mouth.  

I'm not sure the whole timeframe but I think it was after about 45 minutes that the firemen came, then not long after that the air ambulance turned up. We all backed away as they rolled in with their kit, letting them take over. It was a weird feeling of relief, anxiety and worry as they took control. 

I stayed close to the others for a while and answered a few questions the ambulance crew had. I then  went and found my family, who had been staying back in the supermarket the whole time, hearing my loud voice across the shop floor, doing the count for the chest compressions. As I hugged them I nearly broke down there and then, relief flooding through me until I looked down I realised I still had some of his blood on my hands. I went and washed, scrubbing my hands in the sink, and found the others who had just gone through it all as well. 

I asked where the young lady who had helped me at the start had gone to. She had gone back to work and as the four of us went and found her she burst in tears, hugging us all in turn. 

It was emotionally charged to say the least. I gave my contact details to the man who had got the defib and got invited up to the staff room of the supermarket to make sure we were all okay. I decided that I'd be better off going "home" with my family though so politely asked to be excused instead. As I walked out the fireman who had asked me to stay gave me a fist bump and said we'd done everything we could, and "you good?", checking I was okay.

The old lady the man had knocked down in his fall was his mother who he had gone shopping with. I saw her sat there, surrounded by people looking after her. She nodded to me, her head shaky as she sat at the end of the checkout. 

I spoke to the lady who had taken charge and started the chest compressions at the very start, I asked was it a community here or was it more for holiday makers. She said she knew everyone involved, accept me, as it was quite a close community. She then asked if I was moving here for work, I told her it was just a weeks holiday, "F7ck, not what you want on holiday," she replied. 

Picture taken by my Eldest as we left. 

 When we got back my wife cooked tea while I just stared at the ceiling for a little while. Afterwards I got a message telling me the man had passed away. The ambulance crew praised what we had done, and man offered me some numbers for counselling should I need it, which was really touching. 

I'm not sure what the children thought of the whole thing. I'm hopeful they didn't see much of what was actually going on, but I hope they saw that I tried to help, even if he didn't make it. And sometimes trying is all you can do, even if it looks hopeless. 

I pretty much beat myself up over the details afterwards. Wondering if I could have caught him as he went down that second time, but I had tried. I also maybe wasn't as calm as I could have been at the start, shouting for help, but I suppose it's through experiences that we learn. It's easy to think we should have a super cool head after the emergency has passed. I don't think I panicked but I probably should have taken over the recovery position straight away rather than the young lady starting to, she would have been better getting help than me and I was big enough to roll him over. 

I suppose at the end of the day we can replay things in our heads over and over, but I don't think much of it would have made any difference. We tried as hard as we could and gave him a chance to come back. I feel sad that he didn't, but know we did all we could. 

It was also another example of how amazing Norwegians are. A stressful situation like that and they could all speak English to me, keep me in the loop of what was happening and console me afterwards. Everyone we met over there was friendly, but I suppose this particular incident showed me a few genuinely kind souls who dropped everything to help this man. When I was reunited with my family I saw the one of the other other ladies hugging her two children, the one crying into her arms as she had been outside the supermarket watching what had happened. 

The next day my stomach muscles were sore, I couldn't sit up from lying and it took a while to figure out why it was. So much effort is put into doing CPR for such a long period of time. Even with three of us doing the actual CPR bit it was still a serious amount of effort and sustained effort at that. 

I'm booking myself on a refresher First Aid course for the autumn, which is needed for my part in scouts anyway, but I feel it's a good thing to keep doing. 

Stay safe people. Hug those you love and keep them close. 


  1. Goodness me! When I started nurse training, I was told to try your best but not many make it if CPR goes on for too long. Still know what to do but at my age and frame size, might not be much help but would still try. Well done.

  2. Well done for doing all you did . Most wouldn't have even tried.
    Hope writing it down will have helped but I expect it will be with you for a very long time.

  3. How do you get over something like that, well done Kev, I hope your words here, will help you process and pop this memory to where it should be. We are all brilliant at going over things, what if?, our minds don't help us. Hug your lovely family enjoy their world, even argue with your daughter, in fact get on with normal life.

  4. Oh my lord! I'm not sure I ever read a blog post that caused me to hold my breath and tear up a bit. It's a bit reassuring thought that the man's limited time aware was short and knowing there were others around rushing to his aid.

    On a related side note, here on this side of the pond, they now recommend no breathing at all in situations like that. Instead they say just chest compressions to the beat of Staying Alive by the Bee Gees, is enough. I hope I never have to find out.

  5. God bless you and all the souls who did their best. Please give yourself grace, as it sounds like you were fantastic in a crisis. It was just his time. Peace to you brother.

  6. wow kev! what an experience. if i went down, i can't think of anyone i would rather have around than you. don't beat yourself up. no matter how much raining we have, when we actually put it to use everyone is amazed at how difficult the practice actually is. a limp body is hard to handle. doing the heimlich on someone while trying to hold them up is an enormous struggle. you should be very proud of yourself for stepping in and helping!

  7. Wow Kev. What an experience. Well done for stepping in - we perhaps often wonder if we could act if we needed to in times of emergency; you proved that you did.

    (Also, I am very amazed that you are able to write so clearly and with such great detail about it. I can only imagine it would be a jumble of events).

  8. You did everything you could do and the effort by you and the others is heroic and amazing. It is sad that the man did not make it but nobody knows their time on this planet. No doubt you will remember this holiday forever.

  9. Absolutely amazing Kev, well done!

  10. Well done on all the compassion and effort you put in. It sounds like you all did what you could, don't start wondering "what if". Booking on a refresher course is a very good response to this traumatic event.

  11. Well you didn't walk away and while that poor man died, you did your best and that was great

  12. That’s awful, sounds like you did your best though. Good on you.

    I had the same experience myself a couple years back whilst I was out mountain biking. Due to the remoteness of the location and heavy tree coverage it was near impossible to get the emergency services there. We managed to keep him alive for 3 hours until the air ambulance could finally send somebody down but sadly he didn’t make it.


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