Lucky No. 7

by Diane Brady

The teacher kneeled on a blue mat in the school gymnasium, heart racing as he shook the boy's shoulder and then squeezed hard, his head low, shouting into the child's ear, "Are you OK?" There was no movement, no sign of recognition, so the teacher continued his assessment -- airway, breathing, circulation -- tilt the head, pinch the nose, give two breaths, watch the chest rise; he probed the child's neck with thick fingers searching for a pulse, and after ten seconds he pushed the jersey aside, lucky No. 7, and began compressions. It was nine years ago, nine summers past since he knelt beside his own son on the coarse sand of the Maui shore, breathing desperately, pleading, bargaining to exchange his life for his, the foam of the sea mixing with the foam from his young mouth, the blue lips and the paleness spreading over his face where once it was golden from the sun. In the gymnasium the teacher pushed harder on the boy with one hand, allowing the chest to recoil thirty times and then breathing again and again; five cycles, recheck -- airway, breathing, circulation -- still no response, keep going, focus, waiting for the emergency team to arrive and take over, waiting for the professionals to do what he could not. It had been a special trip that summer, a celebration of school accomplishments for his son, a bonding of the family after months of his wife working overtime at the law firm and him coaching too many games that spring, a chance to reconnect and enjoy time together, swimming, snorkeling, touring the island. He redirected his attention to the child on the blue mat, the boy with no movement, no recognition, no response; he was exhausted, the sweat of his brow growing with each compression, his own heart beating faster and faster; and then the instructor approached and tapped him on the shoulder, signaling for the teacher to stop, but he could not stop and instead continued pushing and pushing and pushing the boy's chest until he heard a sigh; finally, the woman pulled the plastic manikin away from him; "You passed," she said.

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Diane Brady, author of Flight, lives in Denver, Colorado, where she has several jobs, including teaching CPR, AED and First Aid classes. While living in Alaska for 18 years she spent time as a volunteer EMT on a small-town fire department. This piece is fiction, although several of her students have saved a life with CPR. Diane hopes everyone learns this valuable skill -- and never has to use it.