Do you have a defibrillator?

Some days are long, really long, and I get nothing done. When our oldest was a baby, Craig would come home and ask, “What did you do today?” And from where I sat I had done nothing. He would smile and remind me I had parented. Well, somedays I have to remind myself that today I humanned.

American Thanksgiving was Thursday, and it’s an oddly emotional day for me because I live a normal day in my normal life knowing those I love deeply are having a special once a year kind of day. I woke up and decided it was the time to try a brand new recipe for pumpkin pancakes before I leave the house just before 7 a.m. Doesn’t that sound like an excellent plan? Then I would leave my family a “I’m thankful for you” note with this treat. I did; no one, absolutely not one family member besides me, liked the pancakes.

The province of BC has been rolling out a new curriculum, and Thursday our staff worked on teams to consider what it will look like for the students. While quite interesting, it also required deep thinking; my brain got tired.

Then I ran home to the pancake mess I had left and after school running. While folding laundry, I noticed a man carrying on and leaning against a tree in front of our house. I cracked the window to see if he was ok. In our neighbourhood it’s not uncommon to see people with mental health issues, addiction issues. Then it looked like he was going to relieve himself by the tree, so I chose to look away and the next pressing life detail called until the boys and a friend came in and said, “There’s a man who may need some help.” Grabbed a phone, put the littlest under the older’s care. And went to talk to the man who was leaning against the tree in his pajamas.

He was moaning and hitting his chest, and we didn’t speak one anothers’ languages. I called 911; he asked for hospital. I nodded yes trying to reassure him. I’m talking, monitoring my kids reactions in and outside the house. Trying to ask him the 911 operators questions. He’s clearly in pain. My neighbour comes out and goes back to bring the man a blanket. The older man continues to hit his chest and his side. The 911 operator asks if I have aspirin or Bufferin. I have Advil; my neighbour has Tylenol. No.

Do you have a defibrillator?

SONY DSC from wikipedia

No. My neighbour doesn’t either. Do people have those in their homes? No we don’t have a defibrillator, and we just need someone to get here soon. Yes, we’ve sent someone.

My body changed with this question. My clarity of thought diminished; my vision limited to only the older man. If you are sick, I will pray for you, cook for you, sing to you, be quiet with you, pray for your doctors and nurses, message you, visit you if I can, pray for your family, clean your home, watch your kids, hold your hand, but please do not ask me to do anything medical beyond a bandaid and polysporin. I just don’t know enough. Ok, so I can administer an Epipen and inhalers, but that’s only if I’m sure you need it.

A defibrillator? I can’t spell it, say it, and I’ve not had CPR since high school; that’s a LONG time ago. My brain had really shut off; my teens just finished their course.

I’m still answering the 911 woman’s questions. Do you know him? Is he clammy? Is he confused? How old is he? Can he tell you . . . ? And I’m repeatedly refraining, “It’d just be good if someone could get here quickly.”

The older man’s agitation calms down, but then she asks us to get him lying down. Tilt back his head. Keep his airway passages open. There are visible indications of his religious tradition, but I can’t remember if I’ll make him unclean touching him. I decide alive and unclean is better than pure and closed airways. (The things that surface in my automatic pilot brain.)

Then he closes his eyes. 911 woman – try to keep him awake. I’m trying. My neighbour’s trying. Sir, Sir . . . operator: “How’s his breathing?” Well, he is breathing, but it’s light. Ok, put your hand on his chest and tell me each time his chest moves. I can’t feel it move. His eyelids are moving, so he’s not dead, but I can’t feel his chest moving. You just need to get someone here. Pass the phone to my neighbour to see if he can count the breaths. He can’t either. Sirens finally. Fire truck. They’re calm. One of the men can speak his language. Step back. There’s nothing else I can do.

Go in the house. Kids questions. I give a lot of I don’t knows and pray. Parenting brain. You have violin lesson. Youngers get your shoes on. Older man put on a stretcher and taken in the ambulance. The ambulance is still there; Mama, you’re not going to be able to get out. Well, we’ll get in the van, so we’re ready. Firefighters direct me through the little space.

Violin lesson. Grocery stop. Finish supper. Pray. Talk about the painting the friend visiting brought over. Talk about the older man. Quickly start to make cookies for son’s small group meeting. It has never, not one time, even occurred to me to send food for his small group, so why does this occur to me and seem necessary tonight? He always walks to his group; it’s never occurred to me to drive him the 6 blocks to his small group, so why tonight? Younger to bed. Clean kitchen. Pray. Go to daughter’s basketball team parents’ meeting. Visit and thank the friend babysitter. Clean. Collect son and friend from small group. Clean. Friend asks me to spell some words. Craig’s home from UBC united worship. It was great. Cleaning. Sit and listen to him. Millstone around the neck conversation with another. Clean. Craig and Nathaniel run his friend home.

I’m so tired. Ready for bed. Thanksgiving. I’m thankful for 911 services, firefighters, paramedics, my family, the friend visiting, sons small group, people I work with, friend who can babysit, neighbours, coaches, my bed.

Craig gets home with one more amazing story of God’s grace in a university students’ life. He asks what I thought about something. I’m really not thinking at this point, just emoting. Ok, so how do you feel about . . . I’m so thankful that Jesus shows up, and I’m so very tired.

Not one thing on my to do list happened. Nothing I thought I needed to get done has been completed. What did I do today? I humanned.

2 thoughts on “Do you have a defibrillator?

  1. A very stressful day, Ellen. I’ve dealt with a lot of medical emergencies and I’m not always sure if I remember CPR properly. “There are visible indications of his religious tradition, but I can’t remember if I’ll make him unclean touching him.” If that is what I think it is, don’t get too worried. An awful lot of older people have had that same thing done to them, perhaps the majority in my (older) generation. The chances of such a person being made unclean are less than you think because most of them probably don’t share that religious tradition : )


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