The vacant stare in her eyes makes my heart race. I shake her, she’s unresponsive. Reaching for her wrist I check for a pulse; it’s there, faint, but there.
‘Someone call 000!’ I shout. There’s a crowd gathered round. It’s human nature, but I seethe inwardly.
‘Mate, what’s happened?’ A male voice. His footsteps pound the pavement and he reaches me in a second.
‘Dunno. I was out for a jog. This girl was ahead of me and just collapsed. I don’t even know her name.’
He’s already checking her pockets for a phone or I.D. of some kind. He looks at me, shakes his head slowly. ‘There’s nothing here but a five dollar note and a door key.’
A woman runs towards us, holding her phone. ‘Ambulance is on the way.’ She steps closer, peers at the girl lying on the jogging track. Something in her gaze sends shivers through my body.
‘Everything OK?’ I ask.
The woman nods. But she’s still staring at the girl and her face is ashen.
‘You know her?’
A shake of her head. She moves back into the crowd; a wonky swagger to her steps that makes me wonder if we’ll be checking her over as well. She knows something. Or perhaps I’m being hasty. Perhaps she’s just woozy on sight of one hovering so near to death.
Sirens wail in the distance. Within a minute the ambulance screeches to a halt at the end of the cul-de-sac where the road meets the playground, and the walking trail lies just beyond. One paramedic runs over to us, while the other goes to the back to grab the medical kit.
‘What’s happened?’ asks the paramedic.
‘She collapsed on the track, just ahead of me. I don’t know her, not even her name. We’ve done a brief search of her clothing to see if there’s any I.D. but…nothing.’
As I finish my sentence, the second paramedic slides on his knees to the girl’s side. ‘Take a step away, now, please. Give her some space.’
The first guy nods. ‘Thanks for all you’ve done.’
I move away. The bloke who checked for I.D. does so as well. He holds his hand out to me. ‘I’m Dave.’
‘Charlie,’ I say, shaking his hand.
‘You’re a good bloke. Many wouldn’t have stopped for her.’
I disagree. I reckon most people would stop and render assistance in the same situation. There’s nothing special about me. I’m caring, scrupulous, not special. But I say nothing to Dave.
The air around me chills. The paramedics shift gear; there’s a sense of urgency in their movements. I hear one of them speak. He’s just said, quietly, that the girl is crashing. The defibrillator is brought out and her body jerks as her heart is shocked. The paramedics don’t look at each other; they move in a seamless partnership, each working desperately to save this young girl.
Her back arches, then flops down as she is shocked again. This time, I see the paramedics glance at each other. So much is conveyed between them in a look that is a mere second. I know what they’re saying. They’re losing her.
A MICA unit approaches. The crowd parts like the Red Sea as the driver mounts the kerb and slowly drives towards the young girl and the paramedics. The driver doesn’t even get out; the medic in the passenger seat hops out and takes the gurney from the back of the vehicle, and the three of them work together to slide her flopping body onto it. Once she’s strapped in, she is placed in the back, and is joined by the second medic. She closes the doors as the MICA unit moves away.
I close my eyes; tears spill out onto my cheeks. The first responders move towards me, and one of them rubs my shoulder before saying, ‘Thanks for your efforts this morning.
My efforts? I felt useless, but I nod slowly. ‘Will she be OK?’
‘We don’t know. She’s critical right now. But those guys and the ER team will do everything they can for her.’
The crowd dissipates. Dave hovers nearby.
‘How about a coffee? There’s a caf—‘
I cut him off. It’s rude, but I don’t care. I don’t want to dissect the events of what just transpired with a stranger over a hot drink. It doesn’t feel right. I want to be alone.
‘Dave, that’s nice, really. But I’m gonna head home.’ I turn and walk along the jogging trail, the weight of concern drags at my feet and leaves me cold and shaking.