The other day, as I was leaving Trader Joe’s, a man collapsed just inside the exit.
He was older—perhaps in his mid-80s—and he was with his silver-haired wife, who was around the same age. A wooden cane lay strewn beside him.
As I approached, there was a small crowd forming, and his wife crouched near his head shouting “Wake up! Honey, please wake up!”
Two men began doing CPR, while the growing cluster of shoppers stared at them and a handful of people called 911. It was scary, it was sad and it was unclear how he was doing.
The security guards urged everyone to leave, even though it meant squeezing past the stricken man and his helpers. (Better to clear out than to stand around and create a hazard or make it hard for the EMTs to enter.) I left and watched as the fire truck and ambulance screamed into view and pulled up.
I don’t know what happened after that. I hope he was okay but I just don’t know.
What I do know is that I realized that despite having studied CPR on two separate occasions, most recently an infant CPR video just before my daughter was born two-and-a-half years ago, I felt totally clueless about how to actually do it.
The truth is, had this man needed help and I was the only person around, there’s just no way I’d have felt confident enough to do anything other than hold his hand, dial 911 and wait.
I watched the people performing CPR on him with awe, frankly. Sure, it’s possible they work as doctors or nurses during the day, but it’s also possible that they have educated themselves as often and adequately so that they can help out in a emergency.
(Never mind the whole question of how one reacts in a scary, crisis situation; there were several people lingering around sort of barking strange orders at the CPR-givers, which I found really unhelpful despite their good intentions. Others seemed paralyzed by the spectacle, and a few people took rubbernecking to a whole new, distasteful level by taking pictures.)
All I know is that I left the store, hauled my groceries home and immediately watched an American Heart Association video on You Tube.
The AHA guidelines for CPR have changed, and doing it is easier than ever. It used to be that ABC was the rule of thumb—Airway, Compressions, Breathing. But starting two years ago, the AHA began recommending switching up the order to be CAB—Compressions, Airway, Breathing.
This is a great tweak, because doing the compressions is really easy and even people with the barest minimum of training can at least start doing this. (Tilting the head back to clear the airway and breathing into someone’s mouth aren’t hard tasks per se, but obviously the intimate act of breathing into someone’s mouth may be more challenging for some people.)
Bottom line: Do watch the video. It’s just two minutes. Better yet—take a class.
I feel better and more confident having taken the time to watch. Hope I don’t ever have to use it, but I feel like now I could.