Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Lifesaving 101

Way back in the day (no, I honestly don't remember specifically when, so I'm gonna have to be vague...just go with it...) I took a course offered by the Red Cross, that covered the basics of First Aid and CPR. It kinda goes without saying that this is good stuff, and probably everyone should know it...but time passes, and you forget what you learned, and they amend procedures as the medical field evolves. The bottom line is: at some point you have to get your butt back in the classroom for a refresher. For me, that point was, oh, "right about now", since at my new job one of my duties for our very small office is to act as the Safety Coordinator. It therefore falls within my responsibility to be certified in these wellness-related topics, you know, "just in case ".

WELL...let me tell ya, folks, I found out very quickly that this"not your father's Red Cross", shall we say. First of all, you search for the session that fits your schedule and register for it on their website...while I'm pretty sure the last time I went through the process I had to send a letter via carrier pigeon and wait for a reply. Kidding! Nah--in all seriousness, I probably had to look up the number in the phone book, call the office, wait for the receptionist to present me with the options, put my name on a (paper) list...and mail a check. (Yes, it WAS the Dark Ages....also known as "Pre-Internet"...)

Aaannd, here's where it gets all kinds of...wackadoo digital. My original experience involved several hours in a face-to-face teaching situation, with both lecture time and practice using the skills on either a human partner (for pretend-injury scenarios) or a resusci-dummy (for simulated cardiac events). In the modern era, however, the confirmation email you receive shortly after signing up guides you to the online materials, which you must successfully complete prior to showing up for the practical portion. That's right, my friends, I'm talking about saving people...via VIDEO GAME.

It was kind of mind-blowing--even for this Gen Xer who's perfectly familiar and comfortable with technology--to try to absorb the lessons by watching animated stories on a screen...and making choices with a computer mouse. Now, part of it was definitely...geekily satisfying--you could watch the "effectiveness meter" inch closer to the green side, as you clicked on the right selections. And at the end of the "mission" you were awarded 1, 2, or 3 stars, depending on the quality of care you'd provided. And yes, if you're wondering, I did, in fact, feel compelled to go back and repeat any of the modules in which I only scored the minimum to pass. Hey, it's true that I'm a perfectionist...but if your life was on the line, I think you'd prefer at least a 2-star rescuer, am I right? (So there!)

I have to admit, though, that sometimes it was frustrating to deal with the very rigid paradigm of... cyber-instruction. For example, the program requires you to do everything in the exact order they prescribe, or you can't move forward. But in an actual emergency, even without choosing the stupid little bubble that tells me to "scan for severe bleeding" I like to think I'd notice the presence of GUSHING BLOOD, if it was, you know, spouting from the victim lying on the ground at my feet. And when it came to practicing chest compressions? Puh-leez. Forgive me if I'm a bit skeptical that pressing the mouse button 30 times is going to help me adequately pump a real person's heart and get it going again. (Yeah...maybe this works better for a Millennial...ha!) And then there was the time I got...virtually reprimanded...for failing to notice and remove a potential hazard lying on the floor in the 2D restaurant. Um, hellooooo...I am confident that if a life-sized, sharp, bloody knife was present, I'd have the sense to take care of it. Sigh...

Anyway, I did eventually finish the lessons, at an acceptable level of proficiency (to me). Therefore all that remained was the hands-on training at the local Red Cross location. Here, again, things had changed a bit in the intervening...decades....since my prior seminar. Most notably, we were given plastic gloves and a "breathing barrier" right off the bat, and advised that if we did not happen to have these in our possession when encountering a person in distress, it was up to our discretion whether to treat them, as the situation would be deemed "hazardous" to an unprotected bystander. Then, some aspects were more familiar--like the CPR cycles of compressions and rescue breaths. I did get singled out by the instructor early on...and advised to..."push harder". Oy. Now, I'm not a terribly...sizable...person, so I wanted to respond, "Dude, have you looked at me? Trust me when I tell ya, I'm giving it all I've got, here."

On the whole, though, he was a funny guy--from New York, and quite...blunt. This came out in his instructional style, such as when he told us, "You might hear a suspicious noise the first time you push down on someone's chest. Ribs break. Cartilage tears. These things happen, and if you manage to keep the person alive, doctors can repair the damage later." Then he sent a piercing glance around the room to emphasize his point as he added, "But you can't fix DEAD... so don't worry about it, and keep doing what you're doing." Or when fellow student brought up the idea that in order to maintain the correct pace for compressions, she had heard one suggestion to follow the rhythm of the old Bee Gees song "Stayin' Alive". (Aargh....excellent use of a horrible song, I suppose...also, it could be beneficial when one is becoming exhausted by the exertion, to have some...Distraction by Disco? Or whatever...) In response, he quipped, "Yeah, there's another tune that has the right beat; it's by the band Queen." He paused for effect before delivering the punchline, "It's called "Another One Bites the Dust". I don't recommend singing it out loud, though...."

So, I survived (ha! sorry...) my whirlwind tour through the world of First Aid and CPR for non-medical personnel. With my certificate in hand, I can return to my workplace...and hope like heck I NEVER have to use ANY of this information in real life. At least if I do, I've downloaded the Red Cross application (yes, there's an app for that...are you even the slightest bit surprised?) to my phone, so I can review the steps before assisting. Anyway, do me a favor and stay safe and healthy for me, will ya? Then you can avoid having to hear me humming "Ah, ah, ah, ah, stayin' alive, stayin' alive..."

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