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How Are You Supposed to Feel When a 29 Year Old Man Dies in Your Arms?
You know the world is a strange place. On 18 February 2010 I stayed at the Travelodge in Galway with my 5 children and my wife. I have been booked to speak at the opening of the Adlanticside collage in Bundorren, Co Donegal, Ireland this coming Saturday. So I decided to take the wife and kids away for a few days. Since it’s a five hour plus drive, we decided to break the trip in Galway because it’s a nice city.
We arrived and went out to eat as usual, we went to a nice Italian restaurant so the kids got pizza, we were all in a good mood. Back to the hotel around 10pm. The older kids had a room across the hall and we were in our room with the younger ones, the joy of traveling with 5 kids. Anyway, I was pretty tired so I drifted off while the kids watched TV. Around 12:30 I woke up to a scream.
I assumed it was some Teens messing around, but it went again. It was a scream of terror, so I jumped out of bed. My oldest son called my cell phone just as I opened the door and told him I was going to check. To be honest, I assumed it was a young couple arguing and the worst I could do was punch some guy so I could go back to sleep. I was not at all prepared for what I saw. My oldest son and I went into the hall to see what the hell was going on.
As we rounded the corner of the hallway, we saw a group of people. There was a lot of confusion, I asked one of the women what was happening, she said: “The young guy fell on the floor, white foam came out of his mouth. “I went into the room and saw a young woman in a towel and she was frantic. I saw a young man lying naked on the bathroom floor and a girl in a towel screams: “he hit his head, he hit his head”. There’s a girl next to the guy and he has her in a recovery position, someone else is there but I ask the girl in the bathroom what’s going on. He says that the young guy was brushing his teeth and fell.
At this point, and to my shame, I’m starting to think, ok, this guy’s been on drugs. I couldn’t have been further from the truth. So I go to the girl in the towel and ask, “Have you called an ambulance?” He was partially shouting “I don’t know, I don’t know”. So I went out to the crowd and asked them. I was told yes it was invited. I go back to the bathroom, the girl is talking to the young guy saying “wake up Matt, wake up Matt”. I told him you need to get dressed so you can go to the ambulance. When she was dressed I asked her if there was anyone else with her, she said she had two friends at the hotel so I sent her and my son to get them.
I went back to the bathroom and as I entered I saw two toothbrushes on the floor. Then it registered, the white stuff around his mouth was toothpaste. He literally collapsed while brushing his teeth. At this point his two friends arrived, one boy named Nick told me the boy’s name was Matt, he was 29 and was due to have a new heart valve on March 16th. My own heart sank at this point, there was confusion everywhere. His girlfriend knelt down and spoke to Matt and said, “Come on Matt wake up, come on, wake up. His other friend was on the phone with the doctor and we were told not to do anything. One of the women outside picked up the phone and yelled ‘send an ambulance now.’
So I left and went down stairs to talk to the porter to see what the update was on the arrival of the ambulance as I had just checked Matt’s pulse, it was brisk but very weak. The porter said he didn’t know so I called 999 myself. I explained to the girl on the line what was going on, she connected me to the ambulance and I told the ladies “look this guy is not going to make it”, I gave her the info about Matt and she told me the doctor was on his way.
I ran back upstairs, on the way another young girl said she knew how to do CPR, so I told her to come in. They still have Matt in recovery so I checked his pulse again, nothing. Jesus I said we need to help him now! so her friend told the doctor on the phone what is happening at the moment. The doctor told us to breathe into his mouth, twice, and pump his heart 30 times. To their credit, the two girls immediately started working. Two breaths, 30 pumps and repeat. The girl who was pumping her breast, who had been with her since I got there, was really tired and emotionally drained, so I said look, let me take over. This now happened about 15 minutes after I first entered the room. So we continued with 2 breaths, 30 pumps and so on. How long we were there I don’t know. Matt’s girlfriend and friends were walking around talking to him, I was talking to him saying things like “come on Matt wake up your girlfriend is fine kissing other girls”.
We continued on our way and finally, after what seemed like an eternity, the doctor arrived. He asked how long he’s been like this, I told him about 20 minutes if not more. He asked to clear the room, I did. His friends cry and try to be optimistic, “he’ll be fine.” I hoped they were right, but I didn’t think so. When we helped him, he had no pulse. Then the ambulances arrive. I’ll let the doormen do their job. In the manger of the hotel, a young, I think a Polish girl arrives. He is lost. I ask him to bring everyone drinks. It keeps people busy. I remember when my own sister died, she was 30 years old and died of cancer, that the main thing I felt was useless, so keep people as busy as possible. It’s amazing how stupid little things can bother you.
I ask Nick his name and why they were over Britain. She tells me that they were at a wedding and explains that Nick had been very careful about his lifestyle because of his upcoming surgery. He tells me how they were going to go skiing after Nick recovered from surgery. I can see from his girlfriend and friends that Matt is loved very deeply. One of the ambulance crew asks if I’m with Matt, I told him I was just a guest at the hotel, explain to him who was with him and that they were outside in the stairwell. At this point I realize for the first time that my 16 year old son has been there the whole time. I asked him to come back to the room and he said he would stay. I was very proud of my young man that night and thought of Matt’s poor parents. I had told his girlfriend not to call them until she knew something, I thought, Christ I hoped I made the right decision. There’s nothing they can do now, it’s 1:30 in the morning. Also, she (I never got the poor girls name) is in no condition to do anything.
The main door is partially open because it is stuck in the bathroom door to keep it open. What I’m hearing from people trying to save Matt is not good. They work for 20 minutes, no answer. Now the problem is that they can’t get a stretcher to him, so it was decided to wrap him in a sheet and we carry him down the stairs. Nowadays we allow to build things that won’t get a stretcher, stupid is the only word. The ambulance lady asked me to get Matt’s girlfriend and friends in the room so they don’t see him moved. The girl who was there first, I ask her and her boyfriend to take them to their room. I have to say that I have met some amazingly strong people in my life, but the two young women I was in the bathroom with that night were amazing. I really respect the courage, care and love they showed that night. In fact, the girl who was in the room when I arrived was so caring that I thought she was Matt’s friend, only to find out later that she had just reacted like me.
As soon as Matt’s girlfriend and friends entered the room, we carefully led Matt down the stairs. He was put in the ambulance, I asked if his girlfriend could go with them, they said better not. So I asked the manager to take them to the hospital. Matt’s girlfriend came down first so I told her to go with the manager and brought them to the car. I then pulled Nick aside and told him that the doctor had told me it was one in a million that Matt would make it, I think one of the hotel guests called the doctor who wasn’t from the emergency room. didn’t want to be the one to say Matt was dead. They all left. (Our worst fears were allayed only when we met the manager at check-out. The manager told us that the people at the hospital said there was nothing anyone could have done to save Matt that night.)
I talked to some people briefly, told the two girls they were amazing, and returned with my eldest to my wife and other children. I told them it didn’t look good and went to the bathroom and cried. I couldn’t understand it, I’m a rational man. I had never met Matt, never talked or had a drink with him, but it felt like one of my family had died.
I still don’t understand it but I feel the loss and so does my son. I have to be honest, I didn’t know if I was going to write this or not, but as a parent, God forbid, if it was mine, I would want to know what happened and if my child left this world, if they were surrounded by people who loved them. That’s why I’m writing this. Even though most people like me never met Matt, he was prayed for, cared for and cared for in the most loving way I have ever seen. In this world we live in today where we hear people just don’t care anymore, that was not what I witnessed that night.
There was more love in that bathroom than I’ve ever seen. Everyone there wanted Matt to survive, talked to him, fought to stay alive and was truly sad when he passed. To the point where most didn’t give up at all. We did everything we could to keep him alive and I am deeply sorry that we could not.
So how should I feel?, logic says I was looking at a foreign part of this world. My spirit tells me I lost my friend. A man whose life was short but loved by the people he knew and some people he never met. What a wonderful person he must have been.
To his girlfriend, friends and family, your thoughts, love and all the people who were at the Travelodge in Galway that night.
Matt, you may have moved on, but you will not be forgotten.
Rest in peace Matt
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