Thursday, January 20, 2011

It Was Bound to Happen – and Yesterday It Did!

In an emergency, people take on different roles. There are those who spring into action with a cool head. There are those who fade to the back ground. There are the ones who immediately begin fervently praying. There are also those who choose to become hysterical. Unfortunately, I’m the ladder. Here’s the story of how I learned this about myself.

Yesterday began slightly off – just not like most of late. I learned three new dances for class this morning and the baby was semi-cooperative in letting me do this. I left for class and while reviewing the set I realized that my iPod didn’t sync properly. Human error, no doubt. I’d have to use the same set I did on Monday. I’m mad that I busted my behind learning the dances this morning. But I resolve to have a kick ass class anyway!

I arrived at the YMCA and find that it was name tag day. Because it’s January and there are many new people, everyone was to wear a name tag. This would be handy for later I’d find out. I have a large class to my surprise. There are my regulars and several new faces – one of them an older man. He was the big and tall sort and he had on a velour track suit. If I had had the opportunity to meet him before class began I might have encouraged him to watch for a few minutes. Somehow I doubted that this gentleman would like to rock out to the Glee cast’s version of “Me Against the Music.”

Class begins and is going well. Having so many new people is always makes it more difficult for the instructor. There is much more cueing and showing various intensities. I’m betting the man leaves by the third song – and that will be a relief to me. As an instructor, I’m responsible for the safety of everyone in the room. I’ve always taken this very seriously. I say all the time, “It’s against the rules to get injured in my class.”

Class is shaping up to be a high energy, calorie burning juggernaut! Most of the newbies in class are keeping up, and the gentleman hasn’t left yet. He’s not moving too much so, I’m not concerned. About half way through the fourth song, I scan the class and find that the gentleman is looking as if he might pass out. Another student is talking to him. I look to another instructor who was in class to go to him, but she had left the room. I decide to go to him and before I do – he’s on the ground!

The next 45 minutes seemed to pass in slow motion. Another student is trying to rouse the gentleman. He was wearing a name tag, so she was able to call him by name. I rush over and unzip his jacket. His face is and flushed and pale all at the same time. He is gurgling and twitching. I fear he’s having a seizure. I see him breathing. I run to the door and tell the instructor entering to get help.

When I return to him seconds later he’s unchanged and several in the room begin to pray aloud. I’m standing beside him. I suppose I’m going to show whoever arrives where the sick person is – because it’s not obvious!

The first staff person arrives and then someone brings in oxygen and the AED machine. I think there’s no way this will be needed. Oxygen is administered and more and more staff enters the room. I am paralyzed. People start asking if I’m OK. I lie and say that I am. I look over and see someone giving him chest compressions. I know this is not good and may not end well.

At this point another older gentleman enters. He’s athletic looking and is dressed entirely in spandex. That just stuck me as odd for a person of his age. He’s identified to me as an ER physician. He promptly takes over. The AED machine is hooked up to him and he’s shocked at least three times.

I’m sitting at the other end of the room falling to pieces. This man is going to expire on my watch right here in front of me. A student comes over to comfort me and tells me that this doctor is, “The best!” She says, “He’s been doing this for more than 30 years. He worked on Elvis while he lived in Memphis!” I pretend to let this comfort me. I want to shout, “BUT ELVIS DIED…. OF A HEART ATTACK!!!!! (which it now appear this gentleman is having)”

Meanwhile, just to the side of the man – Mr. C, the contingent of praying people is steadily growing. I try to join them, but I can’t even do that. Several check on me and assure me that it’s not my fault. I shoo them away because this situation is in no way about me.

After what seems like an eternity – the paramedics arrive! At this point Mr. C is making noises somewhere between a snore and a scream. At least he’s alive I’m thinking.

Amazing how the brain works and wanders. The paramedics cut his clothes off. I started thinking about the scissors and how sharp they were to cut through all that velour. He moaned again and my brain snapped back to the present.

We were ushered from the room to a gym down the hall. We were unable to leave because the hallway needed to be clear when they moved him. I called my husband who was somewhat unsympathetic. He kept saying, “Keep it together, Anne.”

Eventually we were allowed to leave the gym but not the facility itself. Mr. C was going by helicopter to the hospital and no vehicles could leave until it had landed and taken off again. At this point I’m really just wanting to leave. While waiting, I ran into a friend who’s a nurse practitioner at the ER. She was disappointed that they didn’t let her know, and she didn’t “get” to help. Later that day I texted my friend, a nurse, who usually attends class. She too was disappointed that she didn’t “get” to help. Medical people are slightly odd in that way, I guess.

Soon Mr. C went to the hospital and I went home. Last I heard Mr. C was doing well. I’m trying to figure out what to do next. Hallmark doesn’t make a card for this, “Sorry you had a heart attack during my exercise class!”

In all experiences I try to reckon what I can take away from it. First, if you can, get familiar with how to use and AED machine. I am, but I was happy to let others take the lead yesterday. It saves lives. I saw it with my own eyes. Secondly, if you can’t do anything else, you can pray. Thirdly, instructor friends, be diligent about the safety of our customers! They make us learn CPR for a reason.

Lastly, since moving to Tennessee my daily mantra is “Just don’t make an ass of yourself!” I’ve failed more often than not. Whether I’m trying to buy wine at the grocery store (in a state where they don’t sell), trying to get a bikini wax (in a town where they don’t do that) finding out I’m pregnant (a surprise at my first visit to a new doctor) or white water rafting (when I hate the outdoors), I’ve made an ass of myself. I did again yesterday. So the last lesson is – If you’re going to have a medical emergency make sure I’M NOT AROUND!!!!


  1. Anne, I'm so sorry this happened to you! You are hardcore! :) There's nothing I'm going to be able to say to make you feel better but I'm just glad he was somewhere where he could get help. And I'm very glad to hear that he's doing well.

  2. I'm glad you are able to look at the humor in every situation.