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  • The rafts marched by like blue and yellow lotus flowers on the Ganges, filled with people drunk on sun and alcohol.

    A cry went up along the shore around the bend. We strained our necks and ears to make out the cause, while boats marched on, faces turned upriver.

    “We need the rescue, we need them now”, she screamed into her cell phone, as her lotus flower took her further and further away.

    People, like ants with something across their path, scurried along the banks pointing and screaming frantically. A boat passed and said, “Someone went down”.

    We strained to see. As the commotion came nearer, a small girl in a nearby rafted went into hysterics. People jumped into the river going under and popping up like feeding ducks. Two kayakers spotted the white shirt floating underwater, I waded as deep as I could.

    I couldn’t help them from here, the water was too fast. Turning quickly, I raced back to shore and down the bank to where they would pull out. As I reached them, the kayakers had pulled his pale blue body halfway out of the water.

    His pale blue skin reflects the sky that his open unseeing eyes can’t see. Death is coming.

    Down the bank I went and grabbed his shoulders, the weight of death unnoticed. Once on level ground, my mind and body responded.

    Around us the world swirls, unseen by him and me. Faces jut in and scream. I tell them firmly, “Please give me room to work. You, help me move him when I need to.” My mind races through the ABC’s of emergency care as a man tries to flip him on his face and whack him on his back… “Airway… we need to get his airway open first” I demand. “Listen to me – I know what I’m doing…”

    Head down, looking across his chest… No breath in my ear, no movement in my eyes. Quick, get an airway. Head tilt, chin lift… Anything? No. Try again. Nothing, I look in his mouth and it is full of food. You didn't listen to your mother, “Wait a half an hour after eating to go swimming”.

    I do a finger sweep and small bits of rice, grated carrot, chow mien decorate my fingers. He needs a breath my training tells me.

    I look down at his cold blue lips covered in food and vomit and don’t think twice. For him I hold the breath of life. My fingers pinch his nose and breath into his mouth. The breath gurgles and rumbles in. I raise my head for another breath as his body exhales, sending food and water flying.

    “On his side!”. We tilt him over and chow mien soup of river water and rice gushes out. Finger sweep and another breath gurgles in. Tilt, sweep, breath… twice more and I am breathing for him. Pulse? 50, weak and irregular. But he has a pulse. I breath again and again.

    He gasps and chokes, water still gushing out his nose and mouth. We tilt him up, his head on his arm. Water draining out of his lungs. He takes his first breath on his own. “Great job”, I tell him. Bugeye's, my CPR and First Aid instructor, words come back, "They can hear you even when they're unconscious". “Your doing great, buddy. Keep breathing for me.” He takes another labored breath… another… I try to wake him by rubbing my knuckles across his sternum, to no avail.

    All we can do now is to wait for emergency care to arrive. Soon enough, the helicopter lands behind us and someone takes over. I retreat to the water to wash my face and mouth and hands. My job is done. He is breathing when once he wasn’t.

    The helicopter takes off in a cloud of sand and dried grass, destined for UC Davis. Someone comes up an shakes my hand, ” Thank you man”, they say. “You were a hero”. One young lady with tears in her eyes gives me a hug, “We saw the whole thing and felt helpless on the other bank. Thank you.”
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