what do you do?

Someone became acutely ill at work yesterday.  I heard someone with a tense voice ask at the front desk for someone to call emergency services.  People were better than I’ve seen, or experienced myself.  But there was this strange inertia about making the actual 911 call.  I remember my sister telling me about a time she was on a bus and the driver lost consciousness.  The bus was parked, but the engine was running.  My sister, ever the self preservationist, said “someone has to move him out of that chair or shut off the bus”.  Her biggest concern, even while relating the story later, was that the driver could inadvertently put the bus in gear and endanger the passengers.  I suppose you could see this as a utilitarian approach, that my sister’s concern was for the good of the many but I know her very well and I know that if that many had not included her, her response would have been less urgent at least.  “Did anyone call 911?” I asked.  No, not for a while.  According to my sister, it took a long time for any of the passengers to get out a cell phone and call.  I don’t think my sister had a cell then, so she wasn’t among the set of people who I’d have expected to call.  She was puzzled by it too.

It’s an interesting sociological phenomenon.  I tried looking it up, but most of what I found is more about people calling 911 for the wrong reasons or about how friends of stroke victims are often reluctant to call 911, which is a little different than when someone goes from walking, talking, and interacting normally to hunched over or on the floor writhing in pain and crying.  There’s a visceral response to a person crying in pain, or there should be.

This is one that I am truly fascinated by, for intellectual and personal safety reasons.  I’m imagining the psych/behavioral experiment that would elucidate reasons why, but anything I can imagine seems rather unethical.

So here’s the thing.  If someone says “call 911” to a group of people or if there is a situation that seems to require an emergency medical response (you don’t always know but in the two cases I’ve mentioned above, it was obvious), then someone has to actually pick up a phone and dial.  Don’t assume someone else is going to call.  If you ask in a clear and audible voice “has anyone called 911?” and if you get any response other than a definitive “yes” from the person who has called or if there’s a delay in sorting it out, then make the call.  Worst case scenario – dispatch gets more than one call.  Best case scenario – you get someone the medical attention they desperately need but cannot get for themselves.  One tip I did find in looking this up – call from a land line.  If one isn’t available, call from your cell but tell the person who answers your location immediately (as in city and street address).  I’m surprised I remembered to do that yesterday.  I nearly used my cell when “911” from the office phone didn’t go through and I had to hang up and dial “9” first.  Seems like something they should change, or announce on the phone with a label.

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  1. Anaphylaxing

     /  November 1, 2012

    Great post! I’m a 9-1-1 overcaller, so hopefully I’m balancing out the karma a little bit….

    • 🙂 I’m reluctant to call for myself or to ask someone to call for me. The last time anyone called an ambulance for me, it was my mother and I was passing out…I pass out slow so there’s a big lead up. I was home visiting and had gone to her door in the middle of the night. She didn’t do any first aid, and she seemed pissed off that I had woken her up. I’m pretty sure now it was a very low blood sugar, although I didn’t have the means to check back then.

  2. Medical Mojave

     /  November 1, 2012

    I’m actually good in an emergency…so I’ve never been one to hesitate. But yes people are generally slow on the uptake from what I’ve noticed.

    • Yay! Good in an emergency! It’s a skill we should be able to put on resumes, except I think people would think you were strange if you did.

  1. standing by « Final Trick

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