My Neighbor's Smile

Last fall, my high school health class hosted guests from the local ambulance district.

They taught the class to perform CPR, use an AED machine, and perform the Heimlich.

The steps were inculcated in my mind.

At age 17, I never thought those skills would ever be utilized.

On the Friday before Valentine’s Day after eating supper; my dad left to go down the driveway for his daily visit to Bill, his best bud since we moved to the neighborhood.

Our families were very close, and I knew if I ever needed anything, Bill would help in any way he could.

About an hour later, I answered a desperate call from my dad who was on the other end.

‘Dying’ and ‘get down here, NOW’ were the only words I could comprehend.

I dashed out of the house and down the driveway.

My father wailed our neighbor’s name as I walked through the kitchen doorway.

Our beloved neighbor was unconscious and supine on the floor, his indigo-colored countenance a listless expression, eyes rolled to white orbs, mouth open, uttering a noise comparable to a snore while his feet trembled slightly.

One hand was palm-first on his chest, his right arm at full extension just inches away from a kitchen chair, a last-chance grab before his fall. The scene was unsightly.

His chihuahua yelped in fear in the adjacent room, his instincts telling him the issue needed to be addressed.

I hastily grabbed Bill’s phone and dialed 911 as I discerned his symptoms of cardiac arrest.

After reciting the address, my training from the health class took effect, and I proceeded to perform CPR.

Dad paced around the kitchen with fearful eyes filled with tears,

screaming Bill’s name, shaking him, throwing ice on him,

trying desperately to ‘wake’ his best friend.

With knees slipping on the melted ice, I subconsciously breathed and pumped, breathed and pumped, an exhausting task.

I was in a zone where I had never been in before, and if anyone were to ask:

I barely remember the 911 operator giving me instructions and telling my dad to relax.

I filtered out the music blaring in the other room (a piece of information I received the next day), and the yelping dog became a thing of the past.

I knew what I had to do, and I wasn’t going to stop until the task was complete.

This wasn’t a homework assignment I could “do tomorrow” or a book I could “start reading next week.”

This was a “life or death” situation.

My head was in a state of cogitation.

What would I do if he died? I was constantly thinking of his sweet wife, their infant son who only knew a few words,

and their school-aged daughter who just lost her two front teeth, imagining the grief they would feel if he were to prematurely leave the world.


How could I live with myself? I convinced myself I could save him and drudgingly continued CPR with uncertainty.

The incessant method of pumping and breathing as I ardently prayed lasted an eternity.

Twenty-five minutes later, the same ambulance district that taught me CPR arrived, and Bill was still alive!

I felt such relief, but I knew he was still in danger. I held my dad back while the EMTs administered nitroglycerin and reversed the heart attack to help him survive.

Bill was conscious once again.

As the paramedics departed with Bill, the chief said that my persistence and education saved my neighbor’s life, ‘a feat of courage that one couldn’t negate.’

As the third student from my school to successfully perform CPR, I’m grateful that CPR is now a required course in my state.

The events of that night

marked an epoch in my life.

God gave me the courage and stability to perform the procedure

I was taught in school, allowing my equanimity and sense of sagacity to blossom for the first time ever.

A glass plaque “Life Saver’s Award” from Valle Ambulance reflects the smile from the life I saved.

I have inherited the philosophy that life is a blessing, and that people must embrace each other with kindness and love, especially in times of need,

and I have the power to help, a concept I can finally perceive.

This poem is about: 
My family
My community
Poetry Terms Demonstrated: 


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