I enjoy a good TV emergency – Seconds to Disaster, I Shouldn’t have Survived, Gold Coast Medical…that kind of thing. I marvel at the scrapes people get themselves into – getting lost in the Simpson Desert without a water supply, deciding to climb down into the Grand Canyon, traversing a flooded river in a car, following a twister with a camera, or a fire…for goodness’s sake! It’s shocking, and I spend a lot of time rolling my eyes, but it’s also an education on how to, and how NOT to behave in an emergency situation. Though I’ll never be the one who has hiked off into the Snowy Mountains with children, only one Snickers in my pocket and one bar of battery in my phone, I wondered if I would ever get to demonstrate my superior behaviour when it comes to dialling Emergency 000 (in Australia).
Not long ago I did a St. John Ambulance First Aid Training Course with my teenage son. I can wholeheartedly recommend this for your teenage offspring, and I found it quite enjoyable to do with him. It was interesting, though somewhat weird wrapping bandages around the floppy limbs of complete strangers who had to pretend to be unconscious snake bite, car accident or head injury victims! Now, even more, I had full confidence that I would carry myself off with aplomb when I was required to dial the triple zeros.
So….last weekend, the Better Half wasn’t feeling well all day. Suddenly, he keeled over. Number One Son yelled at the top of his lungs to “Get out here!!” and recognising a never-before-heard tone in his voice, I flicked off the shoes to run faster to where the Better Half lay prone on the deck. (It really was the deck, lucky it wasn’t a metre to the right or…it would have been in the pool!).
The truth is, your head spins. Mine in a somewhat pretty atomic pattern….you know – up down, round and round, in and out…..this or that??? It’s imperative you think quickly, but perhaps not ALL the thoughts at once! What is going on? Are they hurt? or worse? Do I leave to get the phone, or send someone else? Is there danger? Are they breathing? Do we need an ambulance? Are they getting better or worse? Is there any help around? or do I have to sort this out…..?
I asked a few quick questions of my patient and my son – what happened? Is anything hurting? do you know where you are? Then I decided I would be the better person to talk to emergency. Racing to the phone – I don’t remember it at all – but I do remember talking to Emergency Services, asking for Ambulance. I remember trying to be calm, but my insides felt like a disturbed termites nest. I heard my voice squeak an octave higher than usual, and faster than usual. I answered the questions as best I could and they felt absolutely inadequate. Why didn’t I know what was wrong? Why couldn’t I fix it? The utter limbo state between the phone call and the arrival of the paramedic was bizarre. The scene replaying over in my head and the Recovery Position completely forgotten.
I did manage the situation adequately, I guess. .. delegated jobs to anyone close enough to do them, (Lock the doors and windows, get my handbag, purse and keys, etc) and managed to stay calm for the 25 minutes it took the Ambos to get to my home from one suburb away. Not their best record, but it WAS a public holiday. (Sadly it was New Year’s Day – this caused much eyebrow raising at the hospital later – when in fact it wasn’t an over indulgence at all.) The utter relief I felt when the paramedics turned up – (of course THEN I remembered the recovery position, duh!) and I could handover the life of my nearest and dearest to them.
Now, all is well, nothing a few days in hospital didn’t fix…but the hangover I have is a feeling of mildy guilty humility for the times I sneered at the panicked, garbled “911” caller, or the disorganised, bumbling person who happened upon an accident, and a serious respect for the Ambos who can remain calm, methodical and organised in the face of disaster.
BTW – did you know there are other ways to ‘dial’ emergency in Australia? I’m sure in other countries as well. You can dial 106 from mobile phones, and 112 is a secondary emergency number. To read more – click here