UP DATE: 6/25/12 Read comment reply on what to do if you choke in a restaurant!
Sunday was a special day to honor fathers -- those present in our lives and/or those who live on in our memories. Fortunate are those who are able to enjoy family get-togethers -- often with several generations enlivening the gathering. Hope each of you enjoyed the day in whatever manner has been meaningful to you.
I didn't forget the day in which we pay tribute to those significant fathers in our lives. My thoughts have been with my East Coast life-long dear friend whose husband, a father and grandfather, passed from this life a few days ago. Their sons, all fathers themselves, were gathered around. I'm sure their families would have been together with their mother for that poignant day -- so soon after their father's death. I'm reminded again to treasure the time we have with one another.
The day for me was unique as I journeyed down a partially clogged freeway to the city of Orange for my required cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) certification two year renewal in an American Heart Association class. I'd previously taken CPR through other organizations, but this is the third renewal I've taken with this particular AHA instructor who continues to be the best I've experienced. The CPR technique has changed through the years as medical research has revealed the most beneficial administrations shown to save lives.
The current criteria for applying CPR is not only more effective but has been simplified. We receive training to provide emergency aid to infants, children and adults. Recent years training has included use of an Automated External Defibrillator (AED.) Ability to provide the Heimlich Maneuver for dislodging airway obstructions has always been part of the program.
I've never been in a situation that requires I administer CPR, or an AED either professionally or personally. I had thought I might be faced with that need only a few years ago on Hawaii's Big Island. We arrived in Kona at night and as our car climbed the narrow two lane winding coastal road toward Hilo we rounded another sharp curve. Suddenly my driver son's voice sounded alarm that he thought he saw a man waving his arms and heard him yell, "help." We pulled to the side of the road, established there had been an accident with a car nosed into a tree off the road and proceeded to determine what help might be needed.
The father of this family was standing outside his car saying he thought he was okay, but was concerned for his wife and adolescent daughter. None of the three evidenced external bleeding injuries or obvious broken bones, but the females seemed especially unnerved as might be expected. The daughter complained of a slight headache having bumped her head against the back of the front seat. My son had immediately phoned for emergency help, but given the location was told considerable time would pass before help could arrive. We never had a thought other than to wait with the family though there seemed to be little we needed to do.
Meanwhile, another car stopped with a man who upon learning of the situation walked around the curve with his flashlight and began signaling visible cautions to all cars coming from either direction on this hazardous roadway. The accident victim said another car had forced him off the road in an account which he described also to the police officer who arrived before the emergency vehicles. After my son's report of our involvement only as helpers, confirmed by the accident victim, and the medical help appeared, the officer said we could leave.
I've always wondered if the daughter was okay, and hoped she was. Before the help arrived she had seemed to be getting sleepy. Other than the slight headache she had no other symptoms, but medical personnel would have determined if she might have experienced a concussion or even internal bleeding -- closed head trauma.
In a situation years earlier, I was sitting at a restaurant counter with friends when I overheard a woman sitting at a small table behind me inquiring of her friend whether she was alright. There was escalating anxiousness from the concerned woman in the minutes following about what to do. The mid-level restaurant chain's young manager with whom we had been talking was observing the women with concern but hadn't concluded action was warranted. As the situation developed, finally I turned to view the women and quickly concluded someone needed to act. I told the manager, you need to call 911 now -- that woman is having a stroke. She was still sitting upright in her chair when the emergency personnel arrived and took her to the hospital. The next day I learned she had a massive stroke - cerebral vascular attack (CVA) or brain attack -- from which she did not survive the night.
Interestingly, the restaurant manager said his hesitation in calling for help was based on corporate guidelines. If the manager phoned the restaurant would be expected to pay for the emergency call and transportation if the customer/patient didn't absorb the cost for any reason.
Many years prior to that situation, before I entered my present profession or had CPR training, my immediate family and I were seated in a booth at our local deli for dinner one evening. My son and I had the outside seats opposite each other. We had finished ordering when I looked up at this silent adolescent's face which had a startled wide-eyed look accentuated by a slackjawed open mouth. Instinctively I gestured and we both stood simultaneously. I understood the respiratory system and placed my closed fist against his diaphragm, giving a forceful sudden push which forced air to exit his mouth dislodging the offending obstruction -- a lifesaver candy!
We both immediately sat back down. This all happened so fast, the rest of the family hardly noticed and I didn't want to alarm everyone by upsetting the mood of the evening, much less scaring my son. I have jokingly commented that I gave him life twice.
(Note: The Heimlich Maneuver is best performed differently that what I did with my son though the concept is the same. I had not been trained on the correct best procedure then.)
The CPR training intends to educate everyone that if a person has an airway obstruction preventing them from breathing they'll put one hand over the other at their throat in a signaling choking gesture. Hopefully, everyone will learn this gesture, but my experience is that not everyone automatically reaches to their throat in a situation when they can't breathe -- certainly my son didn't, but maybe I acted before he might have done so.
I'll be quite content to not encounter any need to provide CPR or require it for myself in the future. In fact, I'll prefer that to be the case. The reality is, that we never know when, where, or under what circumstances we may encounter situations where our assistance is needed, whether or not it's CPR. Or, we may be the ones needing help from another. I think it's likely that others reading this have had much more harrowing experiences than those I relate here which I welcome your sharing.