30 Minutes: Struggling to Save Lives on New York Streets

30 Minutes: Struggling to Save Lives on New York Streets

The officers lay Mr. Farhi on his back, and Officer Graham begins to administer chest compressions at a steady, rhythmic pace, to keep the heart pumping and the blood circulating to the brain. Keep the heart going, she is thinking. Full compression, decompression.…

A Fire Department ambulance arrives, as does another police car. Who knows what the response time would have been had Mr. Farhi collapsed on the Grand Concourse in the Bronx, or the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge in Queens, or in some congested intersection in the Brooklyn Flatlands? But fate has struck him here, in hospital-rich Manhattan.

Here she is striding to the back of the ambulance for a defibrillator, talking softly to herself, occasionally cursing. Here she is, returning for a suction device to clear the gathering saliva. Here she is, back a third time, for a self-inflating bag valve mask that she is soon squeezing to send oxygen into Mr. Farhi’s lungs.

The organic wonder of a team effort sets in, with officers and emergency medical technicians all playing their roles in the service of a life. But it is Officer Graham who takes the lead. She is in a zone, she has confidence in her abilities — and this is her guy. Axel is her guy, and there is no pulse.

Story Highlights

  • “Honey?” she calls out.

  • The radio updates of a 911 dispatcher crackle. Sirens wail in the near distance. Down. Up. Down. Up. Down. Up.

Officer Graham is unaware that the man’s wife is keeping panic at bay by watching her assured competence. “I was just trying to fix on something, and I fixed on Lily,” Ms. Farhi later said. “Her determination was kind of keeping me going.”

The unconscious Mr. Farhi is lifted onto a gurney and — “One. Two. Three.” — into the back of the Fire Department ambulance. Officer Graham climbs in, helps to strap him in place and returns to providing him with oxygen.