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Doing nothing doesn’t mean you’re dead

19 February 2012 - 02:31 By Ben Trovato
Ben Trovato
Ben Trovato
Image: Sunday Times

I WAS once told of a woman whose husband collapsed after suffering a heart attack at a cocktail party in one of the affluent suburbs of Cape Town.

She had been in the toilet and came out to find a ravishing blonde straddling her husband with her mouth clamped to his.

Outraged, she whipped off one of her stilettos and plunged the heel into the back of the woman's neck, severing her spinal column and leaving her a paraplegic.

"Honey, it's not what it looks like" has never rung more true. Pity the husband didn't live to say it.

Making sure someone is dead before trying to resuscitate them avoids wasting time that could be better spent with your mates in the bar. Don't just kick them in the ribs to see if there is any response. And just because someone has dilated pupils, blue lips, glazed eyes and his mouth is hanging open doesn't necessarily mean he is dead. He might be a civil servant having a little mid-morning lie-down. If you're not sure, here are some handy pointers that the subject has in fact perished: bullet hole in forehead; knife protruding from chest; head detached from body.

Once you have confirmed that the person is deceased, notify the emergency services. The police will arrive at the scene within between five minutes and five days, depending on the area you are in. Before they arrive, wipe your fingerprints off anything you may have touched. The police will be hoping to make a speedy arrest and get back to the station before the duty officer finishes the brandy. Often they merely handcuff the person nearest to the body.

A lot of people fall down in South Africa for different reasons. It doesn't always mean there is something wrong with them. They might simply be paralysed with apathy and lethargy, maladies that are prevalent in the country right now. However, if they are not breathing, it is your moral duty to attempt to revive them. You may, on the other hand, have your own moral code. If this is the case, loosen restrictive clothing, remove jewellery, wallet, cellphone, laptop and whatever else you think they won't be needing. Then walk away. Do not run. It attracts attention.

There are a number of methods you can use to verify whether someone is still alive. First, check if there is a pulse. This can be done by lightly resting two fingers on his wrist or neck. If the person is a particularly attractive woman, you may check for a pulse by removing her bra and cupping one of her breasts in your hand. This will also ascertain whether or not she is faking. So many women are these days.

If there is no sign of a heartbeat, remove your jacket and roll up your sleeves. If you are on your way to work and have a packed lunch, grab a quick bite to eat. It will give you the energy you need to bring this person back to life.

When you have finished eating, poke a stick down their throat to check it is not blocked. If there are no sticks lying about, go back to your car and fetch the dipstick from your engine. The oil will help it slide down the trachea.

If they are lying in the street, drag their body to the edge of the pavement and hang their head backwards into the gutter. That should open up their air pipe good and proper.

Next, block their nose, cover their mouth with yours and blow as hard as you can. Try not to get aroused. You want to feel their lungs inflating like footballs. While you are blowing, hammer on their chest with your fist. After two minutes of punching and blowing, stop for a break. There is no point in giving yourself a heart attack. During your break, slap the person around and shout, "Live, damn you! Live!" This won't do anything for the victim, but it does make it more exciting for the crowd.

If you are successful, the person will begin to breathe on their own. Ask someone to call the media. There is no point in saving someone's life if it doesn't get into the papers. If the person tries to get up before the journalists arrive, make sure they bump their head against the pavement and knock themselves out.

If your efforts at resuscitation are unsuccessful, get someone to take a photograph of you with your foot on the dead person's chest. Later, you can tell your friends that you killed a mugger with your bare hands.

Either way, you will look like a hero.