I'm fairly certain most of us have seen someone collapsing in front of us. The question is; have you had the opportunity to look them in the face just before they do so? That sight is usually rather disturbing.
When I was in BMT, one of my platoon mates collapsed while running and passed away. This was slightly over two years ago. It was one of the spate of SAF deaths that kicked up a big fuss and resulted in widespread safety reviews.
The first and second platoons had finished our 2.4 run and were resting on the bleachers. My section and I were on the first row as one of us had taken a pretty bad fall and was being tended to by the medic. This gave us a perfect view of the chap, as he was less than ten meters away when he collapsed. He was less than a hundred meters away from the end point, which was around thirty meters away from where we were seating.
I.e. runner--------------------us---point of collapse--------end point
He was running desperately and it was obvious his strength was flagging. Moreover, his PC was pacing him and screaming obscenities at him the way superiors do when they want you to haul your ass and get it moving. The sight was rather comical, with him slowing down to the point whereby his PC was actually hopping up and down screaming beside him to get him moving. The PC looked like a cross between a ballet dancer and a rabid monkey. Somehow, the chap managed to find some last reserve somewhere and ran past where we were seating. Barely five seconds after that, he stopped abruptly, spun around backwards and collapsed on the track. His PC, not realizing that this was a genuine collapse, continued this rabid ballet monkey act for another couple of seconds before realizing that he wasn't going to get up. At this point, shouts of 'Medic!' started to echo as more people noticed the collapse. The medic was rather stunned and froze at first, springing into action seconds later. They attempted to resuscitate him, but were unsuccessful.
He was then carried to the medical center. We were gathered in the basketball court and told that he was fine. A chopper came to heli-evac him to the mainland during the briefing, which hardly helped to make us feel better.
It was only after lights out past eleven, that they ordered the company to fall in to inform us that he had passed away. This many of us already knew as several other companies had already been informed earlier at around nine, when it was revealed on the news and concerned parents had begun calling their sons to check on them.
My section and I had immense difficulty sleeping for the next few days. It wasn't just that he collapsed in front of us. It was the look on his face as he spun around. His face just altered, turning fully composed, almost beatific. It was as if someone had hit a switch and he made his peace. You could really see that he knew he had done his best and gave his all. I hope I never have to see that look again. It may sound like it was peaceful, but it was rather eerie actually. You don't usually expect to see people looking like that.
I don't know if the look on his face will haunt me for the rest of my life, but I doubt I will forget it any time soon. And no, I don't know why he spun around before collapsing; it was rather dramatic I have to admit. On a slightly less relevant note, I shifted to an empty bed in my bunk that night without permission and gave my PC a huge scare when he saw a previously empty bed suddenly occupied.
Technorati tags:singapore, nationalservice, army