So I was at the gym on Saturday morning, working up a sweat on the elliptical machine with my headphones on. I was totally in the zone, keeping tempo to One Republic’s “Love Runs Out” on Spotify on my phone and watching a Food Network chef make Mexican lasagna on the little TV screen in front of me. My brain was a million miles away from what was going on around me when I suddenly become aware that someone was shouting.
I looked over and saw a couple leaning against the railing. To me, it looked like they were over the railing into the racquetball court below. The thought that entered my mind was “Wow, that must be a really exciting match to be shouting at the players like that.”
I turned back to the TV to see if they had finished sprinkling the cheese on top of the casserole when I realized that the shouting around me was still going on. This time, I turned my head to see the woman looking right at me. The words she was shouting started to penetrate my consciousness, “GET HELP!”
I probably heard her repeat this four or five times before my brain unscrambled enough to understand that the man whose back was towards me was suffering a medical event. Because he was leaning on the railing, he had not collapsed to the ground.
I pride myself on being fit and light on my feet. So, did I leap into action to get help, flying down the stairs to the front desk to have them call 911? Or since I my phone was within arm’s reach, did I fire through my list of Contacts until I got the Petaluma Police Deparment’s non-emergency number? I knew I it saved somewhere on my phone. My thinking was that since the gym is only a half mile away from the Police Station, calling them directly could bring emergency help more quickly.
Nope. I did neither of those things. The sad truth is that it didn’t even cross my mind to run to the front desk. Instead, I spent at least a couple of minutes of precious time bumbling with my phone, being frustrated at not being able to fine the Police phone number in my contacts. Thankfully by the time I got to the screen to dial 911, other club members had responded and I heard that help was on the way.
Emergency help arrived and within a few minutes it looked like this gentleman would be fine; he was lucid and talking with them. But the experience left me shaken with the realization of how unprepared I am to react to an emergency situation. I felt pretty pathetic that under the stress of the moment, I couldn’t even make my phone work.
As Steve and I talked about it later, he reminded me how people who have to deal with emergency situations rehearse these scenarios over and over again so their reactions become automatic. It’s unrealistic of me to think that I could be fast on my feet – metaphorically speaking – in reacting to an emergency when I haven’t had any training.
So I decided to get more prepared in a very simple way so if this situation ever happens again, I can take action. I’ve spent a few minutes calmly rehearsing finding 911 and the Petaluma Police Department on my phone. It’s a baby step in being truly prepared for an emergency situation. But you never know when it could be an important one.