“Is there a doctor in the house?” This is one of those phrases that I would be happy to hear at church but fear hearing several hours into a really good party. Whenever I go to a wedding, I check out how many old people there are and when one hobbles out on the dance floor to get his wrinkly groove on, chills go down my spine. I am confident that no matter how many times I have toasted the bride and groom that night, I would be able to do what needs to be done. This is why I am scared; if what I do doesn’t work, as it often won’t despite my best efforts, all anyone will be able to talk about is how many drinks I had at the happy hour … I mean, the cocktail hour.
Actually though, I have only been called to duty once … on an airplane. A man in first class was having what looked like a seizure and they wanted to land the plane prematurely. No matter how many times the gentleman explained that he had a disorder that caused him to shake, they wouldn’t believe him. “Is there a doctor onboard?” “Right over here!” my husband responded, happy to throw me under the bus, finish my cocktail and get an extra seat in which to stretch out. I ended up spending the rest of the two hours in a crouched position in the aisle next to the man AND they moved my husband up to the good seats so he could be closer to me and fully enjoy his filet mignon and ice cream sundae. The flight attendants stopped “attending” to the man now that someone else could be held liable and flirted with my husband instead. What a country!
When and how should you help?
1. You should help whenever you can without fear (from a legal standpoint) of making a mistake or causing more injury. You will be protected almost everywhere by Good Samaritan Laws. Without them, in our ridiculously litigious society, everyone would follow Dionne Warwick’s advice and walk on by. If you pass an accident or an emergency in your car and can’t stop in time, call 911. The worst thing that can happen is that they have already been made aware.
2. CPR – the guidelines changed a few years back to focus more on chest compressions and less on breathing. If you are not trained in CPR, here is what you need to do. You witness someone literally go down. There may be no warning or the person may show signs of distress prior to losing consciousness. If they do not seem to be breathing or are unconscious and not breathing normally, do NOT delay. Call 911 immediately because their best chance for survival is early defibrillation. Then, start chest compressions. This is intimidating to most people, but just think about what you are trying to do. You are literally pumping their heart for them so that blood, and therefore oxygen, can get to their vital organs. Lock your hands together and put the heel of one hand on their sternum (the flat bone between the left and right ribs. Push straight down, at least 2 inches and without removing your hands, allow the rib cage to come all the way up. Do this at least 100 times a minute. Again, if you are not trained in CPR, don’t worry about mouth to mouth. Just keep pumping and if you hear a crack, don’t stop. Ribs can heal.
3. Defibrillation – this is the fun part on TV where George Clooney yells, “Clear” and the body jumps off the table and starts talking. If you are somewhere where there is an AED (Automated External Defibrillator), get it and use it. It is automated so therefore you don’t have to do much and it will not fire a charge unless the person needs it. You will NOT screw up. Just get it and follow the instructions. If you go to health clubs, golf courses or other places where a lot of people pass through, take a minute next time you are there and find out where the AED is located. Click here to watch a video on AEDs. It is a little over four minutes long and chances are that you will never have to use one. But, here is my public service announcement … AEDs really do save lives and they are a patient’s best chance for survival. Save a life, maybe they’ll be something in it for you. At least, you will have a great story to tell at parties.
4. Falls – if an adult falls, complains of injury and cannot get up on their own, it is often best to keep them still and call for help. A small fracture in the neck can turn into a big fracture in the neck with minimal movement. You remember the, “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” commercial. That might have been a good thing for her. When in doubt, let the professionals handle it.
5. Choking – the Heimlich maneuver is the same for adults as it is for children over the age of one (check out 12/8). It may be difficult if the person is much larger than you but put your back into it. If you are choking, signal for someone to help you as soon as you feel like you cannot breathe. If you are alone, throw your body over the back of a chair and try to force enough air upward to propel the object out. In the future, chew your food.
I feel like a broken record, but accidents happen and sometimes they are unavoidable and tragic. It is therefore important to use condoms, I mean, common sense. Don’t climb the ladder or attempt to fix the electricity if you don’t know what you are doing. Wear a helmut when you ski, you are too old to worry about looking cool and they really keep your old ears warm. Wear your seatbelt. Stop texting or even dialing when you are driving. Avoid road rage and sales at the mall. I think that everyone wonders what they would do in the case of an emergency. Stop wondering and really give it some thought. It will make you feel better to have a plan. My plan is to enjoy this weekend and worry only about Pinot Noir or Zinfandel. I have decided on red because that’s what Santa wears and I have way too much to do to drink Cabernet. I hope your weekend is productively fun, that your worst emergency is running out of Scotch tape and that your only accident is a little vino on the rug. May I suggest Red Wine Away as an absolute essential cleaning supply for the holidays?