The Value of Being Prepared

It is impossible to be prepared for every eventuality, but there are reasonable things that people can do to get themselves ready to handle foreseeable emergencies.  If you live in an earthquake zone, hurricane zone, tornado zone, flood zone, and so on, you’ll want to have a kit prepared that can get you through at least 72 hours in case an emergency arises.  With some things like this, it’s easy to see the benefits.

This blog focuses much on how you can be ready for yourself in a moment of crisis, but sometimes we need to be mindful of the value of being prepared to help others.  Gen’s post about CPR reminded me of a story I had seen back in March which showed this value quite clearly.

Australian construction worker Rowan O’Neill was a man who was prepared.  On his way home, he stopped at the IGA grocery store to pick up a few things, a rather routine end to most people’s day.

As he was finishing up at the checkout, a distressed mother brought her 2 year old daughter’s limp body to the front checkouts, frantically seeking assistance.  The child, two year old Shayla (pictured above), was non-responsive and not breathing.

Store surveillance video was released which shows the whole event from start to finish, and the tale it tells is quite remarkable.  O’Neill was quite literally in the right place, at the right time, with the right skills to save a life.

I’ve watched the video many times.  The first several times, I followed the action.  After that, I isolated my viewing on each person in the store and observed how they reacted.  There’s a lot going on in that video.  Watch how each person reacted and ask yourself which person you’d probably be in the situation.

Most people were spectators, and did nothing.  They were either unable to help, unwilling to help, or they recognized that someone was helping more than they would be able to.  A few people tried to help, but eventually they became bystanders.

Shayla’s father spent most of the video losing his mind, but briefly stepped in to help and slapped his child’s back and shook her with such force that I thought he was in danger of harming her instead.

While your attention focused on Rowan O’Neill when he laid the child out on the checkout counter, he was actually involved right from the beginning.  As soon as the mother brought her child to the front, Rowan began working on the “A” of the ABCs of CPR: “Airway”.  Make sure it’s clear.  He saw the child was not breathing, so he assumed she was choking on something, and he tries to dislodge anything that might be blocking her airway.

Seeing that there was nothing blocking her airway, Rowan then switched to the “B” of CPR’s ABCs: “Breathing”.  He performed Artificial Respiration – he breathed for her, until she could breathe on her own.  In an interview afterward, he said he only did small, short breaths because her lungs were so tiny.  That’s the proper way to do it on an infant, just a few puffs.  After a short time of this, Shayla’s eyes flicker and she comes back to life.

Rowan never got to the “C” of the ABCs – Compression.  In an infant, the compression method is much different than what you learn with the adult method.  See the video on Child CPR in Gen’s earlier post to see how.

Rowan is being hailed as a hero, but he declines the accolades.  He says that what he did wasn’t particularly heroic. …and he’s absolutely right.  He didn’t do anything superhuman, he didn’t risk life and limb, he didn’t even use some obscure or highly specialized bit of knowledge.  He kept calm and used the training that he remembered from public school.  Anyone can learn how to perform CPR in a matter of hours, and it doesn’t take much more to become properly certified.  It’s one of those reasonable measures we can all take to be better prepared for an emergency.

How many of us who’ve taken CPR have thought, like calculus, “I’m never going to use this…”?  How many of us learn CPR and then hope we never have to?

I’ve learned CPR many times.  Three times on the job, once as a summer camp counsellor, every year in scouts, I’ve helped instruct it countless times as the manager responsible for health and safety in a production factory, but my own certification has lapsed.  I really should recertify.

If you had your choice to be either Rowan O’Neill, prepared for such a crisis, or the father, unprepared and unable to help his own child, which one would you choose to be?  I think I know the one Shayla’s father would have chosen.

2 thoughts on “The Value of Being Prepared

  1. Thank you, Havilah, I was similarly moved by the video, at several points, but the best part is at the end when the weight of what just happened hits the two men and they embrace. It all happened so quickly, but I'm sure to both of them it seemed like an eternity.

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