On my run yesterday, I wanted to go up Joseph Avenue, to go past the old B’Nai Israel and pay my respects on a day that the army of Israel’s God was in the field in defense of life and liberty.
During the Second World War and the years before, when the Germans and their vassals were rounding up Jews and beating and killing them by the thousands and ultimately the millions, faithful people gathered in those brick walls to pray and weep and strive. And these years later, Rochester’s Jewish Main Street having been gutted in a race riot and this relic of a sanctuary long since abandoned to the urinations of the homeless and addicted, I can still feel the holiness emanate from this consecrated site.
So I went up Joseph Avenue on my run. After some thought and prayer at B’Nai Israel, I cut over to North Clinton and headed back downtown to come back to work. The bullet holes and evidence tape were still in the walls of the empty store across from Mama Rose’s, and Rafael’s rice-and-beans place was closed and for sale, and the crowd outside the Father Tracy Center continued to linger and malinger.
Nothing ever changes on North Clinton.
At least not for the better.
I was listening to a book by Mark Levin as I crossed Upper Falls and the McDonald’s that always tempts me and continued past, headed south, alongside the Tops plaza.
When I heard yelling.
To the left, in the middle of the parking lot, over toward the Clinton Section headquarters. Yelling and a person jumping, and reaching down, to something or someone on the ground. By then, I had unconsciously veered in that direction, and as I made out the body on the pavement I ran faster, yelling to a woman in a car with an open window and a phone in her hand to call 911.
It was an assault or a medical emergency and then the guy on top got down and started pushing on the chest of the man who I could by then see clearly. He was, relative to me, a big guy, black, 20s or 30s, eyes open and fixed, white, bubbly liquid coming from his mouth.
I knelt beside him and felt for his carotid artery. The man above, thin and agitated, but functioning, was recounting what happened, and he handed me the man’s hat, with two orange-capped syringes in it. There was a pulse, a good pulse, but I couldn’t see any chest rise, and the bubbles weren’t gurgling. He wasn’t breathing.
And I thought about his mom.
Somebody’s kid was dying right there before my eyes. And there wasn’t much I could do.
I rolled him on his side, to drain his fluids, and the thin man and I kept shouting encouragement to him. I renewed my CPR card two weekends ago, and I knew that if his heart stopped I was supposed to start chest compressions. But I’ve done that enough to know that those people are dead, and they usually stay dead. Mouth-to-mouth is a thing, or at least it was back when I was in the Army, but it’s not recommended now, and I didn’t have a mask, and he was foaming all over hell. But I decided that, push come to shove, if his pulse got weird, I was going to wipe off his face and take my chances.
But that would only be a stopgap. This man was overdosed and he needed Narcan and I didn’t have any and his friend and I knew that things were really bad.
And then, the best I perceived it and remember it, a lady drove up and rolled down her window and threw out a box of Narcan. I shit you not. An angel of mercy, out of nowhere, with probably the only thing that right then would have done any good. The thin man fumbled with the box and the packaging, swearing at it and its tiny flap, and finally ripped one open and I lifted and turned the man’s head to give him a nostril.
Back on his side, no apparent response, another period of time passed, more yelling the man’s name, rubbing his back, and checking his pulse. Give him the other one! And another lift and turn and a shot in the other nostril.
And then he threw his arms up, almost toppling me as I knelt above him. Watch out, he might come out violent, I said. But that was all, he was still, and I rolled him back over and his eyes fluttered and he began panting, maybe 10 times, and then he stopped again, the heavy siren of Engine 17 roaring up the avenue.
That’s a sweet sound.
And in a moment there were four of Rochester’s bravest on this man, saving him. A firefighter at his head, with the bag-valve-mask, breathing for him, another at his side, doing a sternal rub, trying to bring him out of it, a third hooking up the oxygen connected to the mask, the fourth overseeing and organizing.
And I stood back and watched, in awe, resolved to never run again without Narcan and a pocket CPR mask. And resolved to be better at my half-assed efforts to recertify as an EMT, and to care more about those being destroyed by the evil of drugs.
Before I left, to continue the run past Number 9 school to downtown, I walked over to the thin man, leaning in the driver’s door of his car, to see how he was doing.
He stood up frantic and then started swearing.
While we had been attending to the man on the pavement, someone had gotten in his car and stolen his wallet.