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Saturday, December 18, 2010

Will you be ready?

As I wait for my darling sister to drive in for a 3-day visit (which means I may be a little quiet over here for awhile), I am reflecting on my recent life-saving activities. You might have noticed that my posts lately have been very rushed and not too interesting. That's because after my insane flight back from Charlotte I've been behind on a lot of holiday things that needed to be done before my sister's visit and our family Christmas party (which I'm hosting). So sorry about that. Now that I have a bit of a breather I'm thinking back on this week and realizing...a man could have died in my parking lot without my help. Died. Dead! It was serious. In fact I glossed over the seriousness. He was cyanotic with a flutter pulse and teetering on the edge.
(If you missed it, two days ago a man had a heart attack in the parking lot at work. I ran out and gave him nitro and aspirin, stabilizing him until the paramedics arrived).
I'm trained in basic life support; by law I have to be red cross certified for health professionals since I'm a certified immunizer (since immunizations could cause anaphylactic shock we must be able to perform CPR). Actually as such I am legally obligated to offer first-responder care in an emergency, meaning that I would actually be held liable if the gentleman in the parking lot died and I had not offered care (the Good Samaritan law doesn't cover me, either, so I am not protected from litigation if I cause harm...that's a rock and a hard place for sure!). Despite this knowledge, I wasn't completely prepared mentally for an emergency. I often used to wonder, if an emergency occurs, will I be ready? Will I respond thoughtfully? Will I keep my cool and remember how to do CPR, when to do what, which recovery position is correct? Will I panic or break down?
I used to think about a story that happened to two people near to me. They were driving on a neighborhood road and saw in their rear-view a man on an ATV flip over. They turned their car around and found the man in a pool of blood. They called 911 but in the panic of wounds, blood, and lack of preparation, they did not offer first aid. The man bled to death before the fire truck got there. The story is sobering: both witnesses blame themselves, and one of them was Red Cross trained in first aid care. Years later both are plagued with guilt.
Thursday, my readiness was tested. I was happy with my quick response and most of what I remembered to do. I got someone to call 911 while I ran to the man. I introduced myself as a health care provider trained in basic life support; I got a medical history and allergies; I kept calm and encouraged those around me to stay calm and relax (the man's brother was right there but had reduced himself to a flood of tears and offered no help at all). But what is nagging at my mind now is that even though I knew what to give the man, and I had it at my fingertips as a pharmacist, I did not grab nitroglycerine as I ran out of my pharmacy. Why? I knew I had it and he might need it. My first thought was "reach the man and assess status"  - but could my delay have proved fatal? What if none of the managers had joined me outside and been able to get me the drugs? I should have though to grab the drugs first.
I'm disappointed in my lack of clarity of thought.
Today I am going to review both first-responder information and what to do in case of a heart attack, just for peace of mind. And if you're CPR trained or can offer life support, I think you should join me. We'll all sleep better.


  1. Well I have no CPR or first aid training so I would be of no help whatsoever... :( I think you did a great job, you clearly could handle an emergency situations amazingly well... So impressed!

  2. Agreed, you did an awesome job. What matters is that under the conditions and your frame of mind at the time you saved him. You have lessons learned if there ever is a next time.

  3. I'm impressed with your response! Even though you're well prepared, the shock of such a situation can cause anyone to panic. Props to you for coming to the guy's rescue!