Thursday, October 19, 2006

Surviving CPR

I am alive today because of CPR performed on me over 20 years ago. I was a victim of drowning, having been caught in an undertow. Fortunately for me, a doctor was on the scene and was able to revive me.

Last night I worked with a medical team performing CPR on a critically ill person in their early 50's. We weren't successful. There wasn't anyone in that room that wasn't exhausted by the time we resigned ourselves to defeat. Everyone in that room walked away slump shouldered and silent. Sorrow radiated from everyone's eyes.

Surviving CPR. When referring to "surviving CPR" the term is immediately connected to the victim upon whom CPR was performed. There are really two points of view to consider. One side is the victims - the other side is of the responders. I have had the unique opportunity to experience both sides.

In a real code blue there is nothing remotely resembling the fantasied rendition of CPR that is performed by actors on a TV or movie screen. Oh, some performances may be close to reality - but - in most cases the sanitized versions you see are the equivalent of watching a Mickey Mouse cartoon. Reality removes niceties in a brutal way. It can leave not only the victim traumatized, but also those attempting to save him/her.

Even in a controlled environment such as a hospital, the act of performing CPR will leave a room (and everyone who enters it) in a state of ruin. In most instances the room will look like a battle has been fought in it by the time the "code blue" is over. Furniture is thrown out of the way hurriedly to make room for the crash cart and responding medical team; the CPR recipient is manhandled onto a backboard and stripped from the waist up; protective coverings for resuscitative essentials are strewn upon the floor. The victim may have vomited in the act of dying or released bladder or bowel. Responders can do nothing more than protect themselves as best they can and continue. A controlled chaos reigns.

You might wonder why in the world would anybody in their right minds willingly put themselves in a situation such as this? Soldiers return to battlefields - it's not like they enjoy blood and gore - it is something they believe is their duty. Medical personnel must (on some level) function under similar belief systems. Could it be they share the thought - if not me, then who?

By now, I am sure you are wondering why I am writing this. Truthfully, I am too. In part, I want to convey the fact that CPR does save lives. I am a success story. In part, I want to convey that there are others who survive CPR as responders. For anyone involved it is a traumatic experience.

What was my personal after-affect of being a CPR recipient? I wasn't a pretty sight I am sure. I "came to" to find myself a bedraggled mess. I was wet, covered in vomit and my chest felt like it had caved in on me. When I had sense enough to realize it, I was mortified to find that I was laying exposed from the waist up with a large number of strangers around me. I didn't know what had happened. I couldn't understand why those strangers where collectively jumping up and down and happily cheering the way I looked! Unbeknownst to me, they were all celebrating that I was alive - what a shock it was to me to find out I had died.

Over time my memory of the last few minutes before blacking out did come back to me. There wasn't any "bright light" that I have ever been able to recall. There was only the memory of a promise I had made when I realized I wasn't going to make it. A promise to repay a debt if I was spared and given another chance. God was listening that day. And I am now in His service repaying that debt.

So my reasons for pursuing life in death may not be the same for the others who "survive CPR" on a regular basis like me. What is awe inspiring is the fact that medical professionals keep returning to such traumatic experiences to provide CPR without the motivation that I have. In more cases than not, their efforts are in vain. Yet, they do not hesitate to try. I am inspired by those I work with.

I also feel deeply for them and pray that even in loss, my co-workers will not give up the battle to save lives. That the faith that drives them on, will not waiver. That they can accept today's loss and be ready for tomorrows success.

Finally, I'd like to say... Your prayers for us all would be appreciated.

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posted by Is It Just Me? at 3:00 PM