By Ju-min Park and Satoshi Sugiyama
TOKYO (Reuters) – The moment he saw Shinzo Abe’s ash-like face, Shingo Nakaoka knew that any attempt to revive the previous Japanese premiere would probably be in vain.
When the 64-year-old doctor hurried to the scene from his nearby clinic within minutes of Abe’s shooting on July 8, the face of the affected lawyer was bloodless from deep gunshot wounds to the neck.
“What struck me immediately was how pale his face was,” Nakaoka told Reuters by telephone days after the assassination.
“When we massaged his heart, his body did not jerk. He was barely conscious and he was just so pale that I immediately knew he was in critical danger.”
A doctor at his name clinic, Nakaoka, said he was taking action when a patient who had been present when Abe was shot stormed in, panicked and shouted for him to come and help.
Together with the nurses, Nakaoka ran down the three stairs and a short way to the scene. Someone who appeared to be from Abe’s entourage immediately gave him an automatic external defibrillator (AED), but it did not turn on, he said.
One of his three nurses ran back to the clinic to pick up another machine.
But when he connected it to Abe, a voice message from the AED said “not relevant”, Nakaoka said. It can happen when the heart beats normally, or not at all.
The local fire department’s log released last week showed that the first aiders assumed that Abe was in cardiac arrest within minutes of the shooting.
With no other choice, Nakaoka switched with her nurses to manually pump Abe’s breasts.
But with too much blood lost, there was little chance of resuscitation on the spot, he said.
“At the time, I was just so desperate,” Nakaoka said.
The 67-year-old Abe, who had given a pre-election campaign speech to support a party member, did not respond all the way, Nakaoka said.
An ambulance arrived at 11:41, about 11 minutes after Abe went down, said a spokesperson for the fire service in Nara.
“It felt extremely long,” Nakaoka said. “He needed to get to a large medical center quickly to stop the bleeding.”
The helicopter carrying Abe’s clinically dead body arrived at Nara Medical University Hospital – approximately 20 km (12 miles) away – at 12:20 p.m.
“When I think back now, there are moments when I have no idea what my body was doing,” Nakaoka said.
“What I remember very clearly is that I am frantically asking for a miracle so that this man – who was irreplaceable for Japan and the world – could somehow be saved.”
Japan’s longest-serving prime minister was pronounced dead at 5:03 p.m.
(Reporting by Ju-min Park and Satoshi Sugiyama; Additional Reporting by Elaine Lies; Editing by Chang-Ran Kim and Lincoln Feast)