Have you ever thought you were going to die? I’m talking about the kind of incident where your life flashes in front of you . . .
a “this may be it” moment. It happened to me one sunny day in 1993’s at a cafe in downtown Santa Cruz.
The story begins with my good friend Lorna. Lorna is a very funny lady. She’s not the joke telling kind of funny, but the spontaneous, on the spot, situational, screwball kind of funny. She’s quick to smile, easy to be with, and always makes me laugh.
That was the problem. She made me laugh. You might think that’s a good thing, but when you hear my story you’ll see why it was a problem.
Me and Lorna, in Maui (left) and Venice, Italy (right)
We were at a coffee shop called the Java House. It was mid-day and the place was packed. We ordered coffee, toast and jam. As we walked through the crowded room we noticed a very handsome young man sitting next to our table, studying a medical text.
Lorna and I sat down and started talking, about her kids, about my work, you know, blah, blah, blah, whatever. The room was loud with chatter and it wasn’t that easy to hear. She suddenly froze. Her eyes grew bigger as she stared at me in amazement. “WHAT?” she asked incredulously. “WHAT?” I replied dumbfounded.
Now here’s where everything got weird. I promise, I didn’t say what she thought I said! I can’t even type it. It was really, really dirty. I would NEVER have said what she thought I said.
I started laughing so hard. Uproarious laughter! Then . . I couldn’t breathe. The toast I was eating got sucked right down my windpipe. Laughter turned to panic. My eyes got huge, my face went scarlet. I had the tiniest, tiniest bit of air, wheezing through my throat, barely breathing.
The noise in the cafe was really loud. Lorna started yelling for help, but no one even heard her. She jumped up, got behind me and started squeezing me like crazy, with no method to the madness. She had no training and was really trying hard to help me, but it wasn’t helping. She was squeezing me like a tube of toothpaste. Panic! At that moment both of us flashed our eyes on the young man sitting there with the medical book, and gave him a desperate glance. He jumped up, walked behind me, wrapped both arms around me and starts squeezing. No effect!! Yikes!! 2 tries, 2 failures. My goose is cooked.
At that moment I also started to notice all eyes on me. I’m the center of attention in this crowded cafe, and it’s not looking good!
Suddenly the dark clouds parted, the sun streamed through and an angel appeared. From across the room, a stranger approached. He was a tall drink of water, long and lean, dark curly hair, handsome and calm. He walked slowly toward me. “Don’t worry, I was an EMT,” he said looking into my eyes. “Can you breath at all?” he asked. eeeeeeeeee I responded, with the tiniest bit of air moving through. “Good, you’re not going to die,” he reassured me. “I know you don’t feel like you can breath, but pretend you’re taking a breath, a long slow inhale, and a relaxing exhale”. I felt myself beginning to calm. He instructed me to do that again, as he walked behind me, he put his fist, thumb side in, just above my navel and grabbed the fist tightly with his other hand. He pulled his fist abruptly upward and inward, increasing airway pressure behind the obstructing piece of toast and forced it from my windpipe.
It worked! I could breathe. I was alive! I thanked him profusely. He handed me his card. Edward Martinez III was his name. That day, he was a hero! I didn’t see him again for over 10 years . . .
To Be Continued . . . click here.