FEATURE: In the face of death

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews/7 Nov) – Death stared at me – or I cradled death – last Saturday.

It was supposed to be a fun day, a moment of once again cherishing what and how it is to be free, of rekindling the “child” in us.

In the first place, one of the first things that I learned (and I presumed most humans) early on in life was how to ride a bicycle.

Isn’t that with a bike you can go far and reach a destination? But before learning to perfectly ride a bike you first have to fall out of balance and hurt yourself in the process with a broken or bruised elbow or knee?

A bicycle, looking at it now, gave me lessons I would hardly understand in kindergarten school. It preciously taught me how to stand after a fall, to move on, to stop, and to find a way when the road seemed impassable.

Now to my story.

It was a cool Saturday, a perfect day to hit the rough interior track. The night before it rained heavily so no need to worry about dusts, only muddy and slippery roads. There were 11 mountain bikers who joined our adventure pack. Most were older than me and with diverse professional backgrounds. The youngest was a teenager.

More or less an hour after leaving the Rizal Park in Koronadal, a tragic incident occurred. We were already in the interiors of Tantangan town in South Cotabato and about to pass a river going an uphill climb.

I was second to the last of the bottom four riders. One was by himself in the middle. The rest were ahead already by a hundred meters or so.

Before our pack could reach the river, somebody yelled that the biker in the middle, Dennis, had fallen. He was unconscious when we reached him.

It turned out to be fatal, but not because of the fall. He had a stroke. His heart was still beating but his pulse was getting weaker. He was also not breathing. A doctor was with our bottom pack, and so he was given a CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) and a mouth-to-mouth breathing.

The bikers ahead, which include two more doctors, were informed of the incident after a motorcycle passed us. They returned and continued with the revival effort, until a tricycle arrived to bring us to the hospital.

Maybe we were there for about 20 minutes. I could not exactly know since that was the first real life-and-death situation that I’ve faced really up close.

As a journalist, I have several first aid trainings but when confronted with the real drama, it’s very tough there.

It’s also not an easy situation for me since I’m afraid of looking at dead people lying on a coffin. There are only a few persons that I viewed while in wake, and I can count them even with my right hand fingers. They include my dear father and grandmothers.

Last Saturday, I did not only see death; I was cradling him.

I was in front of Dennis in the tricycle, holding him and giving him occasional mouth-to-mouth breathing, as the doctor on the back passenger side barked on me while he pressed on the breast part.

The unknown tricycle driver tried his best to bring us fast. Many thanks to him. His tricycle broke down along the way and we forgot to pay him. An old-model Toyota Land Cruiser owner came in just as the tricycle bogged down. He pushed the gas pedal all the way down, as we were running at a very high speed.

It seemed a very, very long journey to the hospital.

But the journey has to continue. (By Bong S. Sarmiento / MindaNews)