Tuesday, September 2, 2008

How can I help?

Have you ever been involved in a genuine emergency? One where you have no idea whatsoever how to help the person? It's pretty scary.

A few years ago the house hunk and I were shopping in WalMart on a rainy vacation morning. We were in a town that was eight hours from where we lived. He held up a shirt for my inspection. "What about this one?" I was flipping through the shirts on another rack. When I turned to face him, he was falling right between two circular racks of clothes.

My first thought was that he had tripped. I rushed around the rack out into the main aisle to find him lying on the floor in a full grand mal seizure, obviously is respiratory distress, turning red. His tongue was blocking his airway. I remember dropping to my knees and screaming, "Help! Somebody help me!"

I give the WalMart in Olean, New York full marks for incredible service. Their staff was very well trained. An ambulance was summoned. And while we waited, the manager stayed with us. Staff arrived from all over the store and stood in a circle around us with their backs turned blocking us from sight so that we had privacy.

I had no idea what to do for him, but clearly his breathing was getting critical. I turned him on his side and just held him there so he wouldn't roll on his back. Immediately, his breathing eased. The doctors later told us that one simple move had likely saved his life. But what if I had not had the courage to do that? No one else was willing to touch him. No matter how fast the ambulance arrived, it would have been too late.

After the immediate crisis was over, there were many things to deal with. One of those things was the loss of security on my part. I've talked to many other spousal units out there. Once something traumatic happens to a spouse, the partner loses that security that we take for granted... that security that when the spouse walks out the door, they'll come back. Now that is a thing of the past because now I know how quickly that traumatic event can take him away. What would happen if he had a seizure taking out the trash? How long would I wait before I went to see why he was taking so long? No one knows who he is or which apartment is ours. Would anyone summon an ambulance in time?

So each time he walks out of sight, it's an act of faith now that he will come back. It doesn't matter where he goes. It could be just down our short hallway to check the mail. It could be a trip to the grocery store. It doesn't really matter. Because the fact is as his spouse, I have to let him go. I can't wrap him in cotton wool or smother him with concern. No one can live like that. But somewhere in the back of my mind the thought is always there. Such is life.



  1. I have been involved in a similar thing - no a spouse but loved ones - it's always scary

  2. But, for some cosmic reason, you were there the first time.

  3. I have the same issues whenever mine says he doesn't feel well, or complains of chest pains. Too many times he's refused to go to the dr or ER and has wound up in the hospital until nearly too late. Now I don't fool around; I bully him into going, and enlist neighbors if possible, to CARRY him to the car.

  4. Scott is like Molly's spouse. When he's in pain, even unusual pain which sounds like something major, he won't go for help.

    Before I married him, his mother told me the lifespan of all the men in their family. Even his father died at 51 and in perfect health. Only his grandfather and uncles currently remain. So my MIL had put it in my head, quite firmly, that I had only 15 years with Scott when I married him. We're in our 14th year and while nothing major has happened, and her concerns have no major bearing, I don't forget them. And it haunts me to let him walk out the door and wonder if she's right.

  5. That's so scary. My kids and I have a thing we always do without fail...everytime one of us walks out the door we yell...LOVE YOU.

    When my daughter was 15 she was on a tennis trip with her high school team. One of the boys collapsed in the parking lot. Dehydration caused spasms. It was a perfect storm of attack on his liver, kidneys..everything. Awful. While the other kids were freaked out, along with most of the parents. She grabbed ice, a towel and went to her knees on the pavement to help before the ambulence arrived. I still remember her yelling...give him some shade. Block the sun. I'm still amazed my baby was cool-headed enough to deal with it. I think she should consider nursing.

    Bottom line...we never know WHAT we'll do when faced with a medical crisis.

  6. Just had a major reminder last week that life can be very, very short. It can find any of us, anywhere, anytime. treasure the moments you have!