Friday, February 6, 2009

Part 3 in the ongoing series of why I'm no good in an emergency

It started out like a normal enough Friday night. After dinner, we debated: play the Wii, or go to Kohl's and look for new rugs. After hopping on-line and looking at the sale Kohl's was having (should I write "is always having," because seriously: who pays full price at Kohl's?), we decided to drive down and see if we could find some we liked.

I found some flip-flops, wandered through the clearanced gloves and mittens, aswered "Yes" to Ben's plea of looking for new jammie pants. We rounded the corner by the rugs, and heard a thump.

All of a sudden, a lady in a pink shirt was on the floor.

A pool of blood was forming under her head.

Her eyes were partly open, and she was shuddering.

I found myself wanting to help, but completely, 100% unable to walk over to her. I got Shane's phone as soon as humanly possible, and dialed 911. I blurted out to the dispatcher where we were and that they needed to help this bleeding woman. Shane ran to the front of the store to find a worker to come, because we knew that someone from the management needed to be aware of the situation.

I suddenly realize my little boys are standing dumbstruck, looking at the woman on the floor. I dragged them behind a display of rugs, then ushered them down the aisle, far enough away that their curious-but-horrified-eyes couldn't see anything. A lady offered to stay with them, but Shane quickly appeared so I let him stand down the aisle while I talked to the dispatcher.

Itfelt like hours, days, but I'm sure it was only minutes. A brave, brave (far braver than me) store clerk was looking for a medical bracelet on the woman to see if any information could be obtained. She called to me that the woman was an asthmatic, and had another condition that I was able to spell to the dispatcher but now can't come up with for the life of me. I could relay the information from the 2 people now trying to help her, while I half hid behind the rug displays.

I felt so helpless in the face of this emergency. I COULD NOT go up and help. I could talk on the phone, but not help. I finally had to let the manager and store clerk who were helping the woman take the phone, explaining/confessing that I could talk on the phone, but not deal with the blood. They tipped her head back. They felt for her pulse. They talked her through breathing in and breathing out. The clerk gently rubbed the woman's forehead, and talked calmly to her when she became conscious.

The entire time, my inclination was to run. When I heard that terrible thunk, the declaration from someone I can't remember who that she was lying in a pool of blood: I wanted to run. My hands started wringing, panicking, trying to find a way to call someone Official, someone to take over. But I discovered it was me and my husband and boys and a handful other passers-by who needed to be Official.

I tell myself that it was a small contribution - calling the 911. But I wasn't the one to comfort, or look for the medical bracelet. I couldn't feel for a pulse, or comfort her when she came around. It makes me feel so helpless, ashamed in fact that I was a person who runs away, instead of runs toward.

It brought back those other times when I've cowered in the face of emergency. Rationally, knowing what I know now about the situation tonight, I should have been able to go up to her. But my initial thoughts of "What is she is dead?" "What if she is having a seizure; what do I do for her?" "What do I do about all that blood?" kept me being the wringing-the-hands-one, not the talking-softly-to-the-victim one.

Are you good in an emergency? Am I alone in feeling helpless? I just keep feeling so ashamed that I couldn't do more.


Jeanette said...

Stop beating yourself up. You helped this woman, you called emergency services who were quickly dispatched to help her.

YOU DID GREAT! It's ok if you can't deal with the blood and the trauma, many people can't, there is nothing wrong with that.

I am one of the people who does really great in an emergency, it's the time I am more together than any other time in my life, but I completely fall apart the moment the pressure is gone. I vomit, and sob, and shake so bad I have to sit on the floor because I will fall out of a chair.

You did what you had to do, and that was more than many people would have done. It's appaling how many people just hurry away so they don't have to be involved. It's an inconvenience in their lives to help someone.

You were an angel for this woman last night. I'm proud of you.

Ginger said...

I my gosh! That is awful. I just want you to know that you did exactly what I would have done if not more. I don't know how I am in an emergency but I am thinking probably not very good. Some of us have the "run to help" personalities and others of us don't but the world needs all of us in order to work. I think you did the very best thing you could do by dialing 911.

Amy Sorensen said...

I think that it's just about what your strengths are, and everyone has different strengths, and that's OK. You called 911 and got her medical care started that way. You did great! Besides. I think you have lingering PSS from the day you wiped that girl's finger on the grass. ;)

Honestly: I can't say that I have ever been in a REAL emergency. I mean, for certain: we've needed stitches plenty of times, and when I've heard the thud & the wail, and seen the blood of whichever kid is bleeding, I've been able to not freak out. But I've never been in a situation where someone was seriously, maybe-gonna-die hurt, so I have no idea how I'd respond!

Anonymous said...

Holy cow that's scary stuff. I don't think I'm any good in an emergency either. I'm too afraid that I'll do something wrong.

But being quick to call 911 was a very helpful thing to do. I think sometimes people assume that someone else has already/will do it, so it's good that you stepped up and took care of that. Very important detail!