Tuesday, June 25, 2013

What To Do When Someone Collapses

My daily routine begins with a very relaxing run at 7:30 am typically on the Saucon Rail Trail, which it still a bit cool and breezy due to the heavily shaded path.  Today I began my usual three mile run with my heart pumping to the beat of  "Listen to the Music" by the Doobie Brothers. 

Feeling especially chipper today, I ran with a smile and not a worry in the world.  I ran straight out the first mile and a half, made my turn around and confidently headed for home.  With my navigation tracking my every move, I hate when I have to pause so I avoid it at every cost.  I always think I'm losing time and, more importantly, momentum.  But today was different.

As I'm approaching the 2.50 mile marker, ahead in the distance I can see fellow path users gathered as if an emergency is in full effect. I'm torn for two reasons:  first, because I'm a "fixer" and want to solve the problem and second, pausing my time is a mental challenge.  Finding a mid-ground was the only solution.  I shouted out in slow passing, "Is everyone okay? Do you need water? Did anyone call 911?".  The response was, "We are O.K., an ambulance is on the way, he passed out and NO we don't need water."  

A combination of guilt and intuition told me to pause my workout, despite the fair number of people standing around, get water and attend to the person in need.  My new CPR & AED training was fresh in my memory and I was concerned no one in the crowd may be trained to help.

A man in his car at the road and path intersection overheard my dialogue with the crowd and said, "hey, I have water right here!"  We both headed to the old mans rescue.  I surveyed the situation, the scene, what everyone was doing to aid this poor soul whom appeared over-heated, pale and in distress.  I jumped right in at that point.  I began giving instructions.  I asked what happened and was told he was walking and his knees just buckled, he had temporarily passed out and his color was bad.  I said, "quickly take his shoes and socks off," as I removed his hat and neckerchief.  This man was clearly overdressed in denim jeans and a t-shirt, including the other layers we removed.  I explained to the group that your head and feet hold a lot of heat and in a situation like this, he may be overheated and releasing the heat through his head and feet are crucial, which is why I asked that his socks and hat be removed.  

Of course, I asked the mans permission before performing these tasks.  Permission to touch someone is very important, as we are told in Red Cross training due to potential lawsuits.  ALWAYS GET PERMISSION unless of course the person is unconscious, then the law states it is legal for you to assist in distress.  

I began taking the mans pulse but couldn't find one.  I felt his forehead. He was cold and clammy but he was chatting away as I asked him his medical history while I logged it all in my phone notes along with his name and address.  I told the crowd that I was AED & CPR certified in the event this man were to lose consciousness again.  I asked if anyone else was certified or knew how to perform CPR and everyone answered no. I began to explain to the group that if it were to happen, you must lay the person on his back, put your ear to their mouth to hear if they are still breathing, gently tilt the head up by lifting the chin to open the airway and inspect for any obstruction in the mouth or throat.  Once that is done, it is imperative you immediately begin CPR.  I continued explaining the process and said, "two things, first, it's two breaths and thirty chest compressions. Continue to repeat this until professional help arrives.  Second, It's likely that you will hear a "crack" sound in the sternum area and this is normal from the chest compressions."  

In the distance I could hear ambulance sirens and the police were slowly but surely making their way.  When the paramedics arrived on the scene, I gave him the patient's stats.  The paramedics said to the man, "it looks like you have been in good hands!"  

Well, my good deed for the day was done and my strength and character were certainly challenged in the process. I hope that old gentleman was well and only overheated as I suspected.  I just remembered, I have his name and address in my phone, I think I will call him and find out how he faired.  Now go out and get CPR/AED certified, it's easy and all in a days work!

My new mission is to report to my committee (Upper Saucon Park & Recreation Committee), and share what happened this morning on the trail.  Our group has been talking about installing AED devices in the park, I hope my experience will speed up the process!

Contact your local Red Cross, fire house, ambulance corps or township for more information on CPR/AED certification or go to:www.redcross.com

Well, before I posted this, I decided to look up today's victim and give him a call.  He owns a local lock company merely blocks away from my home.  As the phone rang, I was both anxious and eager to hear the news of what happened at the hospital today.  A man answered, I politely said, "Is this Mr. so-in-so who fell on the rail trail today?  This is Jamie Gottschall the girl in the little green tennis skirt who took care of you today."  With a smile in his voice, he thanked me again for helping him.  He told me that after 6 hours in the emergency room, all negative tests on his vitals and old triple operated, pace maker heart, that he was fine (Only electrolytes a bit low).  He said the nurse took one look at what he was wearing and said, "Sir, you are overdressed and on a day like today, you should not be walking in this heat."  He thanked me again and again for my help and closed with the comment, "I'll see you on the trail!"  What a sense of relief!

Jamie Gottschall
The NYClifestylist

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