Why Basic Training Matters
In 2012 I had what could only be termed the travel schedule from hell. I was on the road every month, at least for one trip, sometimes several. November was no exception; I went to Gunsite for an industry ladies class. We were covering the basics on handguns and carbines. You can never get too much training when it comes to the basics. My flight home got me back into Joplin on the late flight, arriving at 2100 hours on November 5, the night before Election Day (there was no way I was going to miss voting!). I grabbed my luggage and hauled ass home to get reconnected with Roy; my frantic travel schedule was almost over for the year, and I was happy to know we’d be enjoying the rest of the year in peace … or so I thought.
After getting semi-unpacked and caught up on the goings on while I was away, we got to bed around midnight. At 0430 I was awakened by a loud crash. Thinking Roy had tripped over Scout, the wonder dog, I asked, “Are you okay?” I wasn’t expecting Roy’s response to be, “No, I don’t feel well, I’m really dizzy.” I turned on the light to see Roy wobbling his way back to the bed and he told me, “Get dressed. Something’s not right, I think I need to go to the hospital.”
I clambered out of bed and began dressing; we discussed the chain of events leading up to him feeling ill. He wondered if it was indigestion and maybe something he ate wasn’t agreeing with him. No, there wasn’t anything unusual with his diet while I was gone. I popped my head around the corner as I was getting ready and Roy was lying on the bed. He asked me to come see if I could find his pulse as he was having trouble feeling it.
I walked over to him and noticed he was this horrible shade of gray; his skin felt cold and clammy, and I too struggled to feel a pulse. At that very moment we both decided Roy was having a heart attack. Had it not been for all those years of first aid training, we probably would have blown it off as simple indigestion — heartburn. And that, we’d later learn, would’ve proven fatal.
Calling 9-1-1 never entered my mind because I’d have to go through the call-taker’s list of questions and have to give directions to our house. We live in the country and I knew I could get him to the hospital long before paramedics could get to us. Time is critical with heart attack patients and I knew we didn’t have a lot of time on our side, so we finished getting dressed and Roy chewed about five children’s aspirin. We got in my truck and I relied heavily on my EVOC skills to get Roy to the local ER in short order. I’d also mentally committed to the idea I would not pull over should a cop want to stop me for my excessive speed along the way — I’d just let him follow me to the ER and we could deal with it once I’d gotten Roy help.
I rushed Roy into the ER and we told the intake nurse we thought he was having a heart attack. Luckily the ER wasn’t packed with the usual suspects who use it as a means of getting more drugs or as a source for their primary care, so he was whisked into a treatment area right away. Within just a few minutes a nurse popped her head out the door and confirmed Roy was, indeed, having a heart attack. I finished getting him checked in and then went back to where he was being treated.
I answered all the questions about Roy’s medical history and the meds he was taking, so the nurse didn’t have to keep interrupting the process of getting Roy prepped for “the cath lab.” Roy was being poked, prodded and shaved (for those damn super-sticky monitor pads they slapped all over his chest), so the Q&A was helping to keep me focused on remaining calm and strong. Soon after, it was off to the cath lab, the place where stents (catheters) are put in the heart’s clogged arteries — through the femoral artery. Roy got two stents right away, with a third planned for later in the month.
From the time Roy woke up feeling ill to the time his new cardiologist came into the waiting room to tell me he was doing great, took only about one hour. It’s amazing how quickly everything occurred and it’s because of our prompt actions Roy doesn’t have any damage to his heart muscle. If we hadn’t acted as decisively and swiftly as we did, things could’ve been much more dire.
Had we waited 10 minutes (the minimum time it would’ve taken medics to get to our house), Roy would have suffered significant damage to his heart muscle. And if we’d ignored the symptoms and simply gone back to bed, it would’ve proven fatal — he had 100-percent blockage in one vessel, 70-percent in another. This event was not stress, diet or lifestyle related; it was genetic. As a matter of fact, just one month prior, Roy’s father suffered a heart attack while we were in San Diego at the IACP.
Roy’s bouncing back fast and the doc says he’s 100-percent good, or as he said, “released for duty.” It pays to be fit, eat a decent diet, not smoke and not be overweight. All things to think about in your own life. Everyone was stunned Roy had a heart attack. “What? Roy? No way!” was the usual response. But yes-way, and even though you’re living right, there may be a genetic time bomb ticking away. Get checked.
The next time you find yourself grousing about having to sit through another boring first-aid/CPR refresher class, or another basic emergency vehicle operations class, think how that training year after year can impact you on a very personal level. It could be tomorrow or long after you’ve retired. We were able to think clearly and act fast because of our training.
Remember, the basics don’t apply just to your job. They’re applicable in most every aspect of your life — something all too easy to take for granted.
By Suzi Huntington