Most of us have no CPR training and few of us can imagine giving anyone mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. And, what works and what doesn’t work changes every few years. We all remember the frantic 911 operator trying to get a nursing home employee to do something to save the life of a dying woman. What would we have been able to do in the same situation?
Years ago, on a Manhattan street, a young man about ten feet away from me had a seizure. I was the person physically closest to him as his head snapped skyward. I thought he’d seen something amazing up in the sky, so I looked up too. When I saw nothing and looked back at him – a matter of just a few seconds time – he wasn’t there either. He had fallen to the ground and was writhing, his eyes tightly shut and his mouth twisted and foaming slightly. I didn’t try to help him but I called 911, described what I was seeing and told them I was on the corner of West Broadway and Houston Street. “Stay there,” I was told. By this time, a restaurant worker came out with a cushion and put it under his head, and a second person came behind her with a coat to throw over him. Several passersby and drivers asked if they should call 911 or if there was something they could do.
Suddenly an ambulance was rounding the corner. I waved furiously and they waved back and made a U-turn. Apparently he was on his way to work at the restaurant we were standing in front of when be had the seizure because his boss came out with his employee file. In cold New York City the first thing the EMS person did was thank me and ask me to describe again what I’d seen. Then she collected the information she needed from his employer and thanked him. By this time the young man was quiet and breathing but seemed to be unconscious. Within minutes and with great care, he was attended to and lifted into the ambulance and they were gone. This entire event unfolded in less than ten minutes. I was stunned when suddenly the street returned to normal. I felt I’d done the right thing by not trying to help him since I had no idea what to do but, instead, to do what I knew I could – call for help. While we can never know how any traumatic event will unfold or what we would feel able to do, I believe it is worth six minutes to watch this video. It may be easier to help than we think . Click here to see how.