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How Are You Supposed to Feel When a 29 Year Old Man Dies in Your Arms?
You know, the world is a strange place. I stayed at the Travelodge in Galway on 18th February 2010 with my 5 children and wife. I have been booked to speak at the opening of the Adlanticside collage in Bundorren, Co Donegal, Ireland this coming Saturday. So I decided to bring the wife and kids away for a few days. Since it’s a five hour plus drive, we decided to hit the brakes in Galway as it’s a nice city.
We arrived and went to eat as usual, we went to a nice Italian restaurant so the kids could have pizza, we were all in a great mood. Return to the hotel around 22:00. The older children had a room across the hall and we were in our room with the younger ones, the joy of traveling with 5 children. Anyway, I was pretty tired so I drifted off while the kids watched TV. Around 12:30 I was woken up by a scream.
I assumed some teenagers were messing it up, but it worked again. It was a scream of terror so I jumped out of bed. My oldest son rang my cell phone just as I was opening the door and I told him I was going to check. To be honest, I assumed it was a young couple who had had an argument, and at worst I would have to slap some guy to go to bed. I was totally unprepared for what I saw. My oldest son and I rushed out into the hallway to see what the hell was going on.
As we turned the corner of the hallway, we saw a crowd of people. There was a lot of confusion, I asked a lady what was going on, she said ‘a young lad has collapsed on the floor, he has white foam at the mouth. “So I walked into the room and I saw a young lady in a towel and she was mad. I saw a naked young man lying on the bathroom floor and a girl in a towel screaming, ‘hit his head, hit his head’. There is a girl next to the guy and she has him in the recovery position, there is someone else there but I ask the girl in the bathroom what is going on. He says the young man was brushing his teeth and collapsed.
At this point, and to my shame, I’m starting to think, Ok, this guy did some drugs. I couldn’t be further from the truth. So I go to the girl in the towel and say ‘did you call 911?’ She partially screamed ‘I don’t know, I don’t know’. So I went out to the crowd and asked them. I was told yes it was called. I go back to the bathroom, the girl is talking to the young guy and she says, ‘Wake up Matt, wake up Matt’. I told her you have to get dressed to go to the ambulance. When she got dressed I asked her if anyone else was with her, she said she had two friends at the hotel so I sent her and my son to get them.
I went back to the bathroom and when I walked in I saw two toothbrushes on the floor. Then it registered, the white substance around his mouth was toothpaste. He literally collapsed while brushing his teeth. At about this time his two friends arrived, one boy called Nick, he told me the boys name was Matt, he was 29 and was due to have a new heart valve on March 16th. My own heart clenched at this moment, there was confusion everywhere. His girlfriend was kneeling down and talking to Matt, saying, ‘Come on, Matt, wake up, come on, Matt, wake up. His other friend was on the phone with the doctor and we were told not to do anything. One of the ladies outside picked up the phone and yelled, “Send an ambulance now”
So I left I went down stairs to speak to the doorman to find out what the information was about the ambulance coming as I had just checked Matt’s pulse, it was fast but very weak. The porter said he didn’t know, so I dialed 999 myself. I explained to the girl on the line what was going on, she put me through to 911 and I told the women ‘look this guy’s not going to make it’, I gave her information about Matt and she told me a doctor was on the way.
I ran back up, on the way another young girl said she knew CPR so I said common in. They still have Matt in the stable position so I checked his pulse again, nothing. Jesus, I said we have to help him now! so his friend told the doctor on the phone what was currently happening. The doctor instructed us to breathe into his mouth, take two breaths and pump his heart 30 times. To their credit, both girls went to work immediately. Two breaths, 30 pumps and again. The girl who was pumping his chest, who had been with him since I got there, was really tired and emotionally drained, so I said, look, let me take over. This was now about 15 minutes after I first got into the room. So we continued with 2 breaths, 30 pumps and so on. I don’t know how long we were there. Matt’s girlfriend and friends were taking turns talking to him, I was talking to him and saying things like ‘Come on Matt, wake up, your girlfriend is fine with you kissing other girls’.
We kept walking and finally, after what seemed like forever, the doctor arrived. He asked how long it had been like this, I told him approximately 20 minutes if not more. He asked to clear the room, I did. His friends cry and try to be optimistic, ‘he’s going to be okay’. I hoped they were right, but I didn’t think so. He had no pulse while we were helping him. Then the ambulance crew arrives. I act as a porter and let the ambulances do their job. The manager of the hotel is a young, I think Polish girl. She got lost. I ask her to bring everyone something to drink. It will keep people busy. I remember when my own sister died, she was 30 and she died of cancer, my main feeling was that I was useless, so keep people busy as much as possible. It’s amazing how silly little things can distract your mind.
I ask Nick his name and why they were via the UK. She tells me they were at a wedding and explains that Nick has been very careful with his lifestyle due to his upcoming surgery. He tells me how they planned to go skiing after Nick recovered from surgery. I can see from his girlfriend and his friends that they love Matt very deeply. One of the ambulance crew asks me if I’m with Matt, I tell her I was just a guest at the hotel, explain to her who was with him and that they were outside by the stairs. At this stage I realize for the first time that my 16 year old son has been there all along. I ask him to come back to the room and say he will stay. That night I was very proud of my young man and thought of Matt’s poor parents. I told his girlfriend not to call them until she knew something, I thought Christ, I hoped I made the right decision. They can’t do anything, it’s 1:30 in the morning. She too (I never got the poor thing’s name) is in no condition to do anything.
The main door is partially open because it is jammed in the bathroom door to keep it open. What I’m hearing from people trying to save Matt is not good. They work for 20 minutes, no response. The problem now is that they can’t get the stretcher to him, so it was decided that we would wrap him in a sheet and carry him down the stairs. Nowadays we allow things to be built where you can’t get a stretcher, stupid is the only word. The paramedic asked me to get Matt’s girlfriend and friends into the room so they couldn’t see that he was emotional. The girl who was there first, I ask her and her boyfriend to take them to their room. I have to say that I have met some amazingly strong people in my life, but the two young ladies I was in the bathroom with that night were amazing. I truly appreciate the courage, care and love they showed that night. In fact, the girl who was in the room when I arrived was so concerned that I thought she was a friend of Matt’s, only to find out later that she had just reacted like me.
Once Matt’s girlfriend and friends entered the room, we carefully led Matt down the stairs. He was put in an ambulance, I asked if his girlfriend could go with them, they said she would rather not. So I asked the manager to send them to the hospital. Matt’s girlfriend came downstairs first, so I told her to go with the manager and take them to the car. I then took Nick aside and told him that the doctor told me it was a one in a million shot that Matt would survive, I think to be fair the doctor who wasn’t from the emergency room was called by one of the hotel guests, he didn’t want to be the one who says Matt died. They all left. (It wasn’t until we met the manager as we were leaving that our worst fears were addressed. The manager told us that the people at the hospital said there was nothing anyone could have done that night to save Matt.)
I talked to some people briefly, told the two girls they were wonderful, and returned with my oldest to my wife and the rest of my children. I told them it didn’t look good and went to the bathroom and cried. I couldn’t understand it, I’m a rational person. I never met Matt, never spoke to him or had a pint with him, but it felt like one of my family had died.
I still don’t understand but I feel the loss and so does my son. I have to be honest, I didn’t know if I should write this or not, but as a parent, god forbid, if it was one of mine, I would want to know what happened and if my child split this world, he would be surrounded by people he loved Yippee. That’s why I’m writing this. Although most people like me had never met Matt, they prayed for him, worried about him, and he was cared for in the most loving way I have ever seen. In this world of ours today, where we hear that people don’t care anymore, that was not what I witnessed that night.
There was more love in that bathroom than I’ve ever seen. Everyone there wanted Matt to pass, talked to him, fought to keep him alive and was really sad when he passed. To the point where most didn’t give up at all. We did everything we could to keep him alive, and I’m deeply sorry we couldn’t.
So how should I feel?, logic says I was watching a foreign part of this world. My sprinter told me I lost a friend. A man whose life was cut short lived, but was loved by people he knew and people he never met. What a wonderful person he must have been.
To his girlfriend, friends and family, thoughts, love and care from everyone who was at the Travelodge in Galway that night.
Matt, you may have passed on, but you will not be forgotten.
Rest in peace Matt
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