It was the middle of July in Canberra and the day, as only Canberra winter days can be, was crystal clear and sparkling. I had spent the morning working in one of the many government offices by the city centre and was strolling out for some lunch. I can clearly remember walking past Ali Baba’s and smelling hot frying oil and thinking my salad sandwich was preferable and suddenly, nothing. Absolutely nothing.
The growing number of public servants and others released into Civic Square for their lunch break noticed nothing, bar a few who happened to be close by who watched with some surprise as the well-dressed elderly man crumpled slowly to the ground. One or two of them quickened their pace and walked towards the recumbent figure but none of them felt the need to run. They stood around, one or two bending down to touch the man, with one getting out his mobile phone to call for an ambulance. All of them were uncertain, or perhaps unwilling to get involved.
Then the young man cycling along Bunda Street noticed the knot of people and the figure on the ground. He was a fireman, visiting from Melbourne, and recognised an emergency when he saw one. Shouldering his way through he immediately started resuscitation procedures, putting into practice all his hard-learned techniques. He was still working away when the ambulance arrived and machine resuscitation was applied. He gave the ambulance crew a brief outline of what he knew and watched as the ambulance sped away. Well, he’d have something to tell his fiancée when he got back to her place that evening!
It was more than twenty four hours later before I became even remotely aware of anything and almost two days before I became aware of my hospital surroundings. I remembered nothing and even when my family was allowed in to see me that evening I had no idea what they were talking about.
A good cardiologist, wonderful nurses, supportive family and friends and, above all lots of rest, soon saw me returning to a more normal routine. Eventually I was allowed home, though still under strict orders to do as little as possible.
As I learned more of the events of that July day I realised how much I owed to that man on the bicycle. I longed to see him and thank him. Imagine my astonishment, then, when the office manager who worked with me in my small business came to see me one day and said she knew him. He was her sister’s fiancé and like every good Melbournian his name was Brian Doyle! What a small and wonderful world.
Almost three years have passed since my stroll into Civic. I have learned to work less, exercise more, though not too strenuously; to eat better and what to do when the tell-tale signs of stress start appearing. I still enjoy working on my business but I’ve also rediscovered the joy of my garden, my dog and my cat and, more than anything else, the company of my wife.
Life is good and I’m delighted that nowadays I never find myself saying, “Nothing happened today.”