Sketchbook First Aid

This image while seemingly pretty mundane is actually the most important of my Inktober drawings this year. This drawing, well, it nearly killed someone. Or it saved someone's life, depending on the way you want to look at it.

It was at this point that i started running.

It was at this point that i started running.

Start of Inktober day 31 inks.

Start of Inktober day 31 inks.

Finished inks.

Finished inks.

Threw a few tones in there just for kicks.

Threw a few tones in there just for kicks.

This happened a few months back, I had just given notice at my job at Pilot and was trying to spend my lunchbreaks outside to get a little breathing room. Like anyone working through the last few weeks of a job, and on the brink of something new, I needed a little decompression time and was taking my lunches outside to doodle and shovel out the nervous trash pit my brain had become.

Two friends from my office roll up to the bench where im drawing, and knowing im leaving soon, stop to say hello. Noah and Tyler. We are chatting about something and I see Noah’s eyes dart over my shoulder. The way that deer do when something moves in the grass, a quick jerk with a slow stare. He half breathes the word fuck and starts running.

I turn and follow him, starting to see a commotion rumbling together. There are two women at the center of it, one red-faced and hunched over, the other looks like she is trying to remember what the Heimlich looks like from the last movie she saw and is administering it accordingly.

Noah steps in and the second woman backs away, thankful to have been replaced, and he starts in on trying to save this woman via Heimlich. Noah, well he is a large individual. When people use the term "Big Fucker", they are referring to guys Noah's size. This girl, this choking girl, might be 100 pounds. Two and a half choking girls equals one Noah. I see Noah rip through two or three pulls easily pulling this girl off the ground. I see his grip is a little high, not because he doesn't know what he's doing, but because he's a fucking giant in comparison to this tiny girl. I put my hand over my fist and mime the motion to him and say "NOAH, in and up." He lifts up his hands and backs up like I pointed a gun at him. I step forward. Now I feel like that imaginary gun is on me, but really I know it's on this girl.

At this point the little hamster in my brain starts running.

Starts sprinting.

He starts burning the wheel.

Everything around me slows down and the next minute feels like it got stretched into a silent screaming marathon.

I should mention here that, while I have some training in CPR and first aid, it has been an easy 15 years since I have re-upped either one. And as I take my second step towards this girls fear soaked face, I begin an internal panicked scream that basically lasts for the next minute.

I have a thing. A thing that happens when I panic. It's weird and I don't know why it happens and but it’s a default state that resets at certain very specific moments. My mind starts grasping at any and all the relevant information it can get.

I start doing math problems. Word problems. Like 5th grade shit.

I look at this girl and she is 100 pounds. I'm 190 and I can hold my breath for a little over a minute. Maybe a minute and a half? I don't know. 2 pool lengths. 25 seconds give or take have gone by since she started choking and that leaves me with how much time if she has approximately 60% of my body weight does that translate to 60% lung capacity? Has she got less lung capacity? Shes little. Maybe she’s a swimmer. Picture screaming all of these sentences in all capitals with no spaces or punctuation and that's what the inside of my brain is looking like.

Math is the fundamental language of the universe, and my algorithm of 2nd-grade arithmetic tells me I've got about 40 or 50 seconds give or take to get this done. At that point her knees will buckle and she’ll stop breathing and we are gonna be in a whole different, much shittier, fucked-up horrible room. That's the CPR room. That's the brain damage room. A few unsuccessful minutes after that well change rooms again.

And that room has a fucking coffin in it.

I wrap my arms around her and start.

I have given CPR one other time. It worked immediately. So I think I got a good shot at this. One and done right? I'm so good. No problem.

Go ahead and skip forward 15 seconds to my 6th or 7th pull into this girl's stomach. The muscles in her abdomen are flexed so hard they feel like steel cables against my wrists. Every time I pull this girl's blonde hair goes into my face and for split second I can see the shade of her face peeking through the strands. Its gone a deep purple, but its purple with what seems like a white ash sheen to it. I feel the seconds ticking by...and each one feels like a piano drop.

I start thinking of the line of 30 people i’m going to have to explain to why their daughter/granddaughter/sister/niece/cousin is dead. Dead because I was looking at Carol Roper instead of paying attention in Lifeguard Training class in the summer of 1993. Dead because I suck at math. Dead because I'm panicking doing math instead of doing this one thing, this ONE GODDAMNED THING, right. Dead because I was drawing instead of paying attention to the world. Just dead.

On my 10th pull and I'm wondering how much left of this is just for show. I feel like she's very soon to be dead and I'm just the dude that going through the motions of saving a corpse. There's no other option though, no one is coming up with their incredibly up to date CPR/First Aid certification and getting in this.

This girl pulled a bad hand, and i'm it. The human version of off suit 2's and 7's and we are speeding past the river card. Cleaned out and sent home with nothing. ..not even a pulse.

One more pull and I hear a sound. I don't know much about choking to death rules, but I know that sound is good. Sound is air. That sound that you hear a warthog make when there is a Jaguar attached to it? Just pig neck against its back molars and fangs so deep into its throat its touching spine? That's the sound.

I stop for a second and move to look at her face. She gives me a look that can only be one thing.


Turns out she's still choking to death.

Feeling like a complete fucktard I get back to it.

13. pull.

14. pull.

15. pull.

A cough. Nothing.

16. pull.

I'm afraid to stop.

My acid burning brain drops into its final fastest gear.


One last pull and then it just happens.

She coughs so hard she pulls forward out of my grip. She drops to her hands and knees and coughs up a piece of chicken about the size of half a tennis ball, that looks like it has been hit by a lawnmower.

I get down on my haunches and put a hand on her back after a moment and say let's get you to the bench. She stands up and says..."You just saved my life." and gives me a hug covered in what I could only describe as victory vomit.

She sits. I ask if I can get her anything, or anyone. She says thank you but no. She says she has to get cleaned up because she has to give a presentation in 10 minutes.

A dedicated employee.

I looked around and there was no one else choking so I leave.

I spend the next few nights in bed staring at the ceiling googling how long it would take a woman of her approximate height and weight to choke to death. How long it would take for her to be brain dead. How long until she was all the way fucking dead? How long did she have? What is the number of seconds from when she choked up that chicken, to when she would have been dead? I have to know. I think about the looks I would have gotten from the first officers on the scene during my interview with them if she died. Selfish shitty thoughts about the effects it would have on ME. Glazing over the effect on her was that SHE WAS DEAD. I'm just that kind of asshole I guess.

Thankfully though, she is not dead, she is alive somewhere, undoubtedly in a meeting. But I somehow still feel like an asshole. Which doesn't make sense, but my brain doesn't care about that, because it doesn't care about anything that makes sense. It never has. It is just that way. I am just that way.

And to you Alessandra, amazingly dedicated intern at Autodesk, for christ's sake woman, you need to chew better.

Also I hope you had a mint before you gave that presentation because you smelled like vomit.