Richard, had been left unattended and was staring out through the rear glass double doors, spellbound by the lush, green, rear garden. Gradually, he turned his eyes toward the sparkling light reflecting off the swimming pool to the right.
He had a fascination for water, be it a bath, a swimming pool, the ocean, a river, any water feature captivated him such that he couldn’t resist approaching it, without fear, without any consideration of the consequences.
His mind wasn’t what it used to be. Not since the accident. Impending danger was not on his radar. His physical limitations were a pale imitation of the brain damage suffered when, five years earlier at the age of 32, his head speared through the windscreen of his brother’s car.
He needed constant surveillance all his waking hours and everybody knew water was the main enemy. When near the water, Richard had to be supervised. Today, however, distracted by the need to win an argument, two of his carers, his father and younger brother, forgot.
While they were arguing over who should mow the lawn and who should wash the car, Richard was more and more mesmerised by the shimmering, glistening pool and eager to investigate. He struggled to his feet and stumbled out through the sliding doors, toward the protective fence. The gate, as it happened, had been left wide open by the same brother who drove the car that terrible day.
He reached the pool and leaned over to see his reflection in the water. Stumbling briefly, he regained his balance and sat down at the edge, dangling his legs over the side, his shoes and socks, and the lower part of his trousers now saturated. He delighted in the cool, fresh feeling of being near the water, being in charge.
Minutes passed, while out front, those that should have kept an eye on him were still arguing. It was a trivial dispute, but neither was prepared to compromise. Suddenly, there came an almighty scream from inside the house. It was Richard’s mother, Elsie.
He was floating face down when they got to him. Elsie was frantic. “Get him out,” she screamed. “Get him out!” His father Brad, was the first to reach the pool. He jumped in fully clothed, and immediately turned Richard over, getting his arms underneath his elbows and edging him to the side of the pool. Elsie was seriously distressed. “How could we have let this happen?” she sobbed. Elsie and her daughter Susan tried to contain their emotions. Warwick, their other son, still smarting from the spat with his father, arrived. “Someone give him mouth to mouth,” Elsie cried out.
Brad and Warwick heaved him out of the pool. Richard’s lips and nose were blue, his eyes closed, his body weight twice normal. They laid him down on his side. “Don’t let him swallow his tongue,” Brad said. “Somebody do something,” Elsie screamed. “Shut up mother, we are doing something,” Warwick yelled. “Susan, call an ambulance, quickly,” Brad said calmly. As Susan ran inside, Warwick looked at Brad. Brad looked at Warwick. Neither had any training in CPR.
“I don’t know how to do this,” Warwick said. Brad just shook his head. “Neither do I,” he said.
“Stand back,” the voice cried out. Everybody turned around.
It was James, the next-door neighbour. “I can do this,” he said. “Give me some room.”
James quickly knelt over Richard and called out to him. “Richard, Richard,” he yelled. “Can you hear me?” There was no response.
James rolled him onto his back. He carefully tilted his head back, one hand on top of the head, the other supporting Richard’s chin. He lifted the jaw to open the airway. He placed his ear directly over Richard’s mouth to listen for any air escaping through the mouth or the nose, while checking to see if his abdomen was showing any signs of moving. It wasn’t. He then pinched Richard’s nostrils, and began blowing air into his mouth.
“Is he going to be all right?’ Elsie asked.
“I don’t know,” James said. “There’s no pulse.”
“Is there anything we can do?” Brad asked.
“You can see if the ambulance is on its way,” he suggested. James ripped Richard’s shirt open. He placed his fingers on the lower part of his ribs and felt for where the ribs met the breastbone. After several compressions, he reverted to blowing air into Richard’s mouth.
“How long will he keep doing this?’ Elsie asked Brad now standing alongside her. “As long as it takes to get him breathing again,” Brad answered.
“Oh, Holy Mother of God, what a day!” Elsie exclaimed. Susan came running out of the house. “The Ambulance is on its way. They said they’d be a few minutes. You can speak to them on the portable if you wish. How is he?” Susan asked, offering the phone to James, who made no effort to take it. “Tell them I’m doing CPR, but he hasn’t responded,” James said, not taking his eyes off Richard and continuing with chest compressions.
“They said to keep going, they’re almost here,” Susan said.
Again, and again, James repeated the compressions with a gentle rhythmic action, helping the heart fill with blood. One minute passed, then two. Warwick leaned over and looked down on Richard. “Please move away, “James said sharply. “I need space here.” Warwick backed off and stood alongside Susan. “At least if he pulls through, we won’t have to worry about brain damage,” he said.
Susan stared at him utterly disgusted and thrust her elbow into his ribs. He doubled up winded and gasped for air. Seeing her chance, and using both hands, she then gave him a hefty shove sideways, which sent him crashing into the pool.
“You insensitive arsehole,” she screamed, as he came up for air. “You bitch,” he cried out as he splashed around. Above the sound of the splashing and the astonished cries from Elsie, the faint sound of a siren could be heard in the distance. “Listen,” Susan yelled. Everyone was silent as the unmistakeable, piercing sound increased.
“How is he?” Susan asked frantically.
James turned his head toward her. The look on his face said it all.