Friday, October 31, 2008

Saving Willie Martinez

A couple of weeks ago at work I took a first aid certification training, with a handful of my coworkers, during which I told a brief retelling of the time I found a guy in a parking lot, stabbed in the chest. Tonight at the Halloween party at work, one of the folks that heard that story expressed an interest in hearing the entire story.

For me, this story is a tale of a real life changing event. I have told the story a few hundred times, and although my role in it might be considered to be heroic, for me it was just the least I could do.

It was a normal sort of day in suburbia and my wife and I, went to check out a Play Zone store in Fremont, California, to find out about a party for my daughter's fourth birthday. Since my daughter is now 21, that means that this was the end of July, early August in 1991. I can't remember entirely the date, but I sort of suspect August 2nd was the day -- since I think I read the Saturday paper to find out details about it the next day. So anyway my wife and I and the two kids went to this play zone in Fremont to arrange a party in the Subaru.

I am getting a bit ahead of myself. At the time I was working teaching recreation classes in painting and recently the administrator of the city of Half Moon Bay had forced an official San Mateo County first aid kit on me, since I was teaching a course in landscape painting, which I put under the seat of the car. Although I had had Red Cross first aid training, I don't think it was actually current, but the night before I had seen an interesting story about emergencies, first aid, and how to stop major bleeding.

So we are in this Play Zone checking out the party action, and book a party and leave ... I insist on going back in to pee, but find the bathroom all jammed up so leave any,way and then make a wrong turn to the admonishment of my wife and we are driving through the parking lot and there's a guy on his back the ground in the opposing lane of traffic with a panicked woman screaming on top of him and shaking him. There's blood. I reach under the seat and grab the first aid kit.

I stop the car and get out.

"What's happening?" I ask.

"It's my boyfriend, he's been stabbed. A bunch of guys, they beat him, then they stabbed him."

The right side of his shirt is soaked in blood about heart high. There's a lot of blood.
"Ok, sit down right there on the sidewalk, and I'll see if I can help him." I ask. "What's your name?" I ask him as I open his shirt. There's a one and a half inch wide puncture wound in his chest, just about where I imagine there's a huge vein. It's bleeding. Not pumping. But there's a huge amount of blood coming out.

"Willie Martinez."

"I am gonna try to help you, but I think it's gonna hurt."

"Ok." he says, and passes out.

I take a look around. I am in a lane of traffic and I am alone. I see a guy in the near distance running directly at a phone. I assume (correctly) that he's going to call 911. Willie's right hand is bleeding. I open the first aid kit and grab the biggest gauze thing I can find -- which is a 4" compress. Open it and press it against the wound. My wife asks if I need anything.

"Can you bring me a diaper, I really need a bigger bandage?" I pinch the opening closed in Willie's chest by squeezing it with my fingers. A crowd is gathering.

A woman approaches and says "I am a nurse, can I help?" I hand her the first aid kit and tell her that he has a huge cut on his hand. A large woman approches me and states that she is a doctor. I hear a siren. The doctor has trouble getting down to the ground but has a black bag. I am going though the first aid training ABC's and by now am trying to get a pulse. The doctor instructs me on finding the carotid artery, but is clearly reluctant to touch the victim.

The doctor has me roll our victim up on his side so that his good lung is up.

My wife returns with a blanket and says, there aren't any daipers -- this is all I can find. The Doctor thinks Willie may be in shock -- so we use the blanket to wrap him up and try to raise his head. The siren is close now. I now have him in a sort of hug where I am holding this little piece of guaze against his chest and pinching his wound closed between my fingers.

The cops arrive. I think, thank god -- maybe someone will take over. There is a pretty large crowd. The cop asks me what happenned and I explain the Willie got stabbed. He asks me, "How big was the knife?" I say, "I don't know," and he asks if I saw what happenned, and I say no.

"Who did?" the cop asks, and I point at the girl, still on the sidewalk. He takes his notebook and walks away. I hear another siren. The Fire Department is arriving. They run up carrying toolboxes, and whatnot. I hear another siren. The fireman look at me, and ask what's up. I tell them about Willie and they ask, "How big was the knife?" Oddly, they stand there in wonder and immobility. and the parametics arrive.

The paramedics immediately shout instructions to me -- "Don't move." "What happened?" "..."
"How big was the knife?"

"I don't know."

The paramedic ripped off Willie's shirt to examine the back of Willies body to see if the wound had gone through. It hadn't. They roll him on a backboard and I maintain my position holding him together. They setup an IV. He said to me, "Let me see what you got."

I removed my hand and showed him the wound. He made a loud gasp and so did I. Willie wasn't bleeding. He wasn't bleeding. The paramedic plastered him with a large piece of plastic tape.

I get up and walk over to the cop, "Do you need me for anything?"

"Did you see what happened?"


"You can go."

I get into the car and drive home. I wonder to myself if I just fulfilled my life's purpose.

Later that night I call Washington hospital (he's not there), the Fremont Police, and Alta Bates (the coronary truama unit -- he's there).

The nurse at Alta Bates I talk to -- and I explain I was there when it happened -- she says -- "oh you're the one ..."

I learned that he lived -- that 6 kids got arrested for beating him ,, that's everything I ever knew about it.


Jonah said...

Excellent work!

Did you still hold the b-day party there?

shawnkielty said...

Yes, we did. This was a pretty good suburban neighborhood, actually.