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Karen Lynn Vidra, The Texas Tornado

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Paramedic Stories XXIII: Remembering Charley... (By Pat E. Moss, EMT)
By Karen Lynn Vidra, The Texas Tornado
Monday, November 01, 2004

Rated "PG" by the Author.

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A seasoned paramedic shares a story about a patient that she took care of (but was unable to save when he had a massive heart attack).

I shall never forget Charles P. Overton as long as I shall live. He was a gentle old soul who loved everyone, and he always had a jovial way about him. He had been a patient of ours on several occasions because he had a long-standing history of heart trouble, and he had suffered several heart attacks before "the Big One", the one that would eventually do him in.

We knew him simply as Charley.

He was a retired postman, and he had a loving wife, June, and four children, all grown, with families of their own; and he just doted on his six grandkids with the love that only a grandpa could spare. His children lived close by, and he and his family were always doing something, be it helping with the homeless every year around the holidays, distributing toys to sick or orphaned children, bringing cheer and hope to abuse victims at the abuse shelter, or bringing his one-eyed, three-legged Maine Coon cat, "Kitty-Paws", to see ailing residents at local nursing homes. He was a man of great Christian faith, and nothing pleased him more than telling others about his personal Relationship with Jesus Christ.

Every year, when he wasn't having problems with his heart, he and June would go on a cruise. The last time they went, last year, they went to Alaska, and they were gone for two weeks. They also traveled about the United States in their mobile home, and they were enjoying all of the benefits that retirement had to offer. They had a good life between episodes when his heart would give him problems.

Well, one day earlier this year--it was in the springtime, around March--, Charley suffered another one of his heart attacks. Unfortunately, it was a bad one. One minute, the 77-year-old gentleman was playing the piano, singing his favorite hymns, and the next, his wife found him lying on the floor, the piano bench upended, not moving. His eyes were closed, and his face was ashen and sweaty. He didn't appear to be breathing: his chest wasn't moving, and it scared the living hell out of her.

She immediately called for an ambulance.

We got to the Overton residence within three minutes of the call. They lived at a facility for retired people, and thankfully, the place was close to our fire station. We got our necessary supplies, and we quickly made our way to the place where June and Charley lived; June met us at the door, crying; she was saying, "Hurry! It's Charley! It's his heart!"

We immediately set off to work, to try to help this poor, unfortunate man whom we knew quite well. Just knowing him made the situation more dire because he was not only a patient of ours: he was also a trusted and valued friend, and we knew him quite well, if not for knowing him on a personal level, but for his good heart and good will towards people who were less fortunate than himself. We got him hooked up to the heart monitor and started an IV in his arm; my partner, George, affixed an oxygen mask to his face, and checked his vital signs. We were dismayed to see that his vital signs were poor, and that his heart was not beating as well as it should. Suddenly, Charley gasped loudly, only once, and the line on the monitor went flat, signalling trouble. The alarm started shrieking shrilly, which sent June into a new torrent of tears. She stood there, wringing her hands, and crying loudly.

I had Kendall, another paramedic, take her out of the room, so he could keep her company and get his medical history while George and myself worked over Charley, hoping, and desperately praying that we could bring him back. He was completely without breath, completely without a pulse, and his blood pressure was dropping dangerously low. It was clear that this guy was in trouble, serious trouble, and he needed to be at a medical facility as soon as possible if he was to have any chance of life or surviving this, his latest heart attack.

Unfortunately, despite our best efforts, we could not bring him back. Not all our pummeling, probing, stabbing, or life-saving measures could revive the man. At the hospital, within minutes of our arrival, and after they had him on the table and worked on him some more, he was pronounced dead. He was in his later 70's, 77 to be exact.

At the news, we cried as though our hearts would break. We loved Charley, and we delighted in his tales of travel and his telling us about the latest adventures starring himself, June, his wife, their four kids, and of course, the grandkids, who were the lights of his life. He also shared stories about his cat, and we grew to know June, Charley, their kids (Russell, Gina, Charley, Jr., and Beth), and their six grandkids (Riley, Regan, Richelle, Megan, William, and Charles the Third, the baby of the group) quite well. They were a remarkable family, held together by the strong love and faith of their patriarch, Charley, and it was evident just how close this family was. There was a lot of joy and love in the family, and in today's strife-filled world, it was quite refreshing to see. Even sickness didn't dampen Charley's spirit, and when he had his heart attack and then died, it was as though our own hearts were stabbed, and it was as though our own father (or grandfather) had died. We cried hard and long, and we are still trying to come to terms with his sudden and unexpected death nearly eight months later. We lost a friend, and we would never forget him as long as we would live.

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Reviewed by Simon Thurlow 11/3/2004
Another stirring tale Karen. Nice to be reading you again
Reviewed by Judy Lloyd 11/1/2004
We all have a Charley. Two years ago when it was snowing on Christmas Eve our fire chief had a heart attack he is also a member of the First Responders. There were some very close moments but he was revived and is still serving our community. Thank goodness for paramedics. And for all the Charleys and Pauls. A good story.
Reviewed by Karla Dorman, The StormSpinner 11/1/2004

as much as medical personnel try to distance themselves emotionally from the patients they tend to and care for, there are ones that stand out vividly in memory. i know.

powerful writing, excellent story!

(((HUGS))) and love, karla. :(

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