This is a true story that I hope inspires you to take action.
A few weeks ago I was at a friend’s birthday dinner with my family. A lady sitting at the far end of my table suddenly stood up holding her throat looking in distress. She began walking toward the bar. The lights were dim and the music loud. Most people in the crowded room didn’t seem to notice. Her friends sitting at the table did not follow her. Maybe they thought she wanted privacy? Earlier I had overheard her saying that she had many food allergies and was extremely sensitive. I initially thought she was having an allergic reaction to something she ate.
A member of the waitstaff followed her. I was concerned and followed her as well. My thoughts at that point were to ask her about and look for an EpiPen as she had known allergies. As I got closer she collapsed to her knees still holding her throat. At that point it seemed more like she was choking and all of a sudden those years of CPR training and recertification I had received, that I hoped I never had to use, kicked in. I yelled to the bartender to call 911 (which they were on their way to do anyway). In an emergency, always call 911 to get help on the way as quickly as possible.
I asked her if she was choking and wanted me to help her and she desperately nodded. Strange and obvious as this question may sound, this is part of the protocol. There were some waitstaff and bartenders around us and someone asked if I knew what to do. I said I had training in this, would do all I can to help and then got to work.
After performing two rounds of the abdominal thrust protocol also known as the Heimlich Maneuver, her airway cleared and she started coughing and breathing. I cannot describe the relief and gratitude I felt, and cannot even imagine what she must have felt at that moment.
What was most striking, and almost surreal, to me during this experience was the automatic response and calm control I felt. The reason being, every time I’ve taken CPR classes over the years, I’ve always dreaded actually being in a situation where the training was necessary. My fear was that I wouldn’t act effectively under pressure in the heat of the moment. But I felt surprisingly clear-minded, the procedure seemed to flow and thankfully was successful. The lady, although a little shaken, was ok.
Another thing that struck me was the fact that with so many people around, no one else followed her to see if she needed help as she walked away. Some people may not be able to recognize signs of distress, or maybe want to give privacy and not embarrass someone if they don’t realize the gravity of the situation. If you feel you are in distress, make it known that you need help. This is crucial.
My reason for sharing this story is to encourage you to get training in CPR or CPR/First Aid. You can make a huge difference in, and maybe even save someone’s life. Familiarize yourself with the basics because things really do happen at unexpected times. Then continue to be re-certified/trained as years go by. Practice and brush up on these skills once in a while. Repetition is what creates motor memory and will make a difference when there is real stress involved.
Some of us are required to have this training based on our careers. But even if it’s not a requirement, do it anyway. Sometimes professional help may be too far away when every second counts. So the more prepared we are to respond and take appropriate action when time is of the essence, the better our chances of successful outcomes.
There are lots of resources online for basic information and classes everywhere. Simply Google CPR classes in your area and you’ll easily find one. Below are some links to help you get started.