A special “extra” story this week. I’ve pulled it out separately because it doesn’t “really” fit in with True‘s theme. While it is a bit weird, it’s certainly not about someone doing something stupid.
“Remain Calm” Personified
Thurston County, Wash., 911 dispatcher Chris Scott got a routine emergency call: a woman saying her 6-month-old baby was choking, had stopped breathing, and was unconscious. Scott walked her through the procedure to clear the boy’s airway. At the end of the call, dispatch supervisor Tammy Clark told Scott, “You saved that boy’s life.” Scott, still calm, replied: “That was my son.” He had recognized the caller as his wife, and she recognized her husband’s voice, too. “I always dreaded getting a call like that. I didn’t know how I’d handle it,” Scott said later. “I guess I handled it pretty good.” Scott’s wife, Janna, describes him as “a pretty calm person.” (KING Seattle) …Practice makes perfect.
All the medics out there just smiled: they know the type, and they know what I mean by the tagline.
Training Kicks In
When faced with a real emergency, when one thinks they’d just be overwhelmed, what people really do is “revert to training” — what they practiced. Cops do it in shooting situations, for instance.
I remember when I was being trained in California when I was a sheriff’s deputy, and a lot of cops were still using revolvers. We were told the story of a police shootout, and investigators were a bit perplexed why the shot officer had carefully dumped the empty shells from his gun into his hand, and then put them in his pocket. Turns out, that’s what he did for years and years during practice on the shooting range, so he didn’t have to go pick up the shells later.
When it came to the real life-or-death shooting situation, he “reverted to his training” and wasted time taking care of the shells, rather than eject them onto the ground, which is faster. He paid for that fastidiousness with his life.
Using That to Advantage
That can be a benefit, too, if you do it right. It happened with me and Kit this summer, when we were faced with a patient in cardiac arrest (full story). EMTs drill a lot on what to do, and I’ve even proctored tests for new EMTs on it. We had a guy dead on the floor — with the potential to live. If you don’t know what to do, you panic. But we did know what to do, and simply “reverted to training” — we just did what had to be done, and had enough to do that neither one of us had time to panic.
The rep for the manufacturer of my defibrillator was in town recently, and when he heard the story he said he could download the data from my machine, so I handed it over. He showed me the time taken from when I turned it on until I shocked the patient back to life: 21 seconds — and that includes analysis time to ensure the patient was both in a heart condition that needed to be shocked, and one that would be improved by a shock (yes and yes, obviously), and the time to charge up to deliver that shock!
That speed isn’t because Kit and I are brilliant, it’s because in an emergency we knew what to do, and simply did what we’ve practiced many times. And that is why it’s important to not only get CPR training, but to get the refreshers when needed to reinforce that training. Maybe someday you’ll save the life of a loved one, like Chris Scott did. But you need the training first. Knowing what to do sure beats panic.
As for our patient, Kit and I were volunteering at a community health fair this month, and someone slapped me on the back. As it happened, I was telling a new EMT about the case right at that moment, and there he was — the very patient we had saved — saying hi, when I turned around. It wasn’t just good to see him alive, but to see he’s living, too. So cool!
I was at a meeting last night and the manager of our dispatch center was there. When I told her this story, she said she had heard about it, and wasn’t Chris Scott a new dispatcher? I researched it this morning: he’s not just new, he’s a trainee! But he’s used to paying attention to life and death training: he returned last fall from a one-year deployment to Iraq with the Marines.
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