Peggy Sturdivant, Laura Cooper and Jeff Cohen participate in "Ballard Prepares" emergency training.
At Large in Ballard: Resilience 101 (SLIDESHOW)
When my friend heard there was an opportunity for 90 Ballardites to receive emergency preparedness training, she thought it would be good to do together. She was so busy contacting me that she didn’t read the small print. So while I got excited about learning to use a defibrillator she thought the class would focus on how much water to have on hand and what food.
As it happened I was already on call for a neighbor who had asked if I could be available to check on her husband, just out of the hospital after completely unexpected cardiac surgery. I figured that a refresher on cardio-pulmonary resuscitation and use of what I now know to call an AED (acronym for automated external defibrillator) couldn’t come too soon.
Before Google, I was the person to call with health questions. I was popular with my medical encyclopedia and enough passing knowledge of first aid to not be too dangerous. I supplied milk when the neighbor thought her son had knocked out an adult tooth. I used my daughter’s babysitting class supplies to bandage a woman whose dog bit her in front of my house. I could confidently check for lice, remove stitches and extract ticks.
Perhaps the greatest compliment my daughter has ever conferred on me, “You’re the best person for people to go to for help.” I’d developed a poker face with regard to blood, knowing the injured person is assessing severity by the panic on your face. I could talk someone through an anxiety attack or dizzy spell. Re-bandaging someone’s wound or answering a jock itch question helped offset what I couldn’t fix, like my friend Bob’s pancreatic cancer or my writing partner’s end-stage lung cancer.
With aging, the stakes are already higher. I really do need to know what to do if someone collapses or appears to be choking. I want to know when to call 9-1-1 and how to assess for ten different signs of shock. I want to be a person that people can look to for help.
So my friend and I set up our laptops to work our way through two mandatory online courses before the actual Saturday training class. It was at that point (probably at the photo of a third degree burn) that she realized it wasn’t the class she had envisioned. Studying 84 slides in one course and 102 in the second I could see that I knew both more and less than I would have guessed. Do you know to lean the head forward instead of back for a nosebleed?
I called Catherine Weatbrook, Chair of Ballard District Council, who has been instrumental in getting the grant that is funding the emergency preparedness training for Ballard. She is another go-to person, momentarily returned from evaluating whether a neighbor girl would need stitches. She told me the seed for the January 26th training came from an Emergency Management presentation at District Council. The council was struck by studies that evaluated differences in communities recovering from a disaster. The most resilient communities had been able to organize. A committee, which included Ballard Swedish, formed around the question, “How can Ballard become that resilient community?”
Perhaps channeling Groundswell founder Lillian Riley’s adage, “You start where you can start,” the committee decided to begin by increasing basic knowledge. Training community members in first aid and CPR would help emergency responders who cannot be everywhere, it would reduce the strain on the hospital and the training itself would create relationships. Plus it was manageable to get a grant to train 90 people using an organization called Prevention MD.
So along with 89 others I will be finding out what else I don’t know about providing support to my neighbors in the case of an emergency. Because it turns out my friend was right: the course is about emergency preparedness -- by person and by block, with quite a few gnarly slides along the way.
Already more aware of what I should learn, I’ve conferred with a friend at UW who studies 9-1-1 outcomes with an emphasis on CPR. She has explained to me that most people don’t do compressions firmly enough, the first compression needs to break apart cartilage “like spaghetti,” she told me. The compressions must not stop until emergency responders take over.
What if giving up a Saturday could help make a difference between life and death, or brain damage versus full recovery? What if it was a matter of studying ahead of time or even downloading the Smartphone App that demonstrates how to do CPR because every second matters. Every second. What if Ballard could become the resilient community, the one that survives to help the others?
Meanwhile it was the stormiest of nights when my neighbor did call because her husband wasn’t answering the phone. She told me how to get in their house. All I knew to do was go in the back door and yell, “Yoo Hoo!” then hope like hell that he answered. Tweezers weren’t going to cut it anymore. Before the course I wouldn’t have known what to do if he hadn’t just been asleep.
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