PeerSpirit Newsletter – The Owl and the Tree
March 2018

 

Dear Friends of PeerSpirit,

In this month’s newsletter, Christina and Ann attend a CPR class and realize how the “bystander care” learned there can be applied to how we respond to various social injustices and incivilities we may encounter in these times.


We Need Citizen Prepared Responsiveness in a Whole Lot of Situations 

by Christina Baldwin and Ann Linnea

On a recent Saturday, we took a three-hour refresher course on CPR at our local fire station. CPR is an emergency practice of chest compressions and rescue breathing offered to save the life of a person in cardiac arrest.  The American Heart Association defines the situation as follows: “Cardiac arrest is the abrupt loss of heart function in a person who may or may not have diagnosed heart disease. The time and mode of death are unexpected. It occurs instantly or shortly after symptoms appear.” In the US, about 350,000 people a year experience out-of-hospital cardiac arrests. IF chest compression is started within one minute, survival rate can be as high as 90%; at five minutes it’s down to 50%, at ten minutes, it’s over.

You are shopping at the local grocery store texting home to see if you need more milk. Twenty-feet from you a middle-aged woman is squeezing avocados, looking for the ripest one. Suddenly she slumps to the floor. Around her people react in concerned alarm, but are not quite sure what to do next. Our whole training was designed to prepare us to know what to do next – to have encoded emergent responsiveness.

Our young fireman instructor said over and over, “Any trained response saves lives! Nothing you can do will make the outcome worse; doing nothing is the worst thing you can do.”

The parallel between the scenario for CPR and the scenario for larger citizen responses to our societal crises seems so obvious. For the rest of the session our thoughts flipped back and forth from learning the skills of chest compression to applying this same training to other scenarios.
To attempt to save the lady lying by the avocados, you step in to offer “bystander care.”

Take leadership: Tap her strongly on the shoulder to see if there is a response (pain or consciousness). If not, you order someone to go get the AED (Automated External Defibrillator). You order someone else to call 911. You start CPR – 30 rapid, deep chest compressions, followed by 2 rescue breaths. (If you do not have a face shield, which we now carry in our purse and on our key-chains, or for any reason do not want to provide rescue breathing, note that 4-6 minutes of oxygen is already in the bloodstream and is being circulated by the chest compressions.) CPR = 30/2, 30/2 – until help arrives or function returns. Once the AED box arrives and is opened, it tells you everything you need to do. Sensors are placed on the body of the victim so the AED can check heart rhythm and send a shock to the heart to try and restore normal function. It is programmed to direct and guide bystander care while First Responders are on the way. It will even teach you how to do CPR. It will calm your nerves.

“Any trained response saves lives! Nothing you can do will make the outcome worse; doing nothing is the worst thing you can do.”

There are nasty elements of racism, sexism, violence, harassment, coercion, and intimidation loose in American and other societies right now. While this takes up much of the media news feed, there are also corresponding elements of healing, activism, determination, fierceness, compassion, and dialogue rising up to maintain civility and democracy. Most of these countervailing influences are spontaneous interventions: bystander care.

You are shopping at the local grocery store texting home to see if you need more milk. Twenty-feet from you a middle-aged woman is squeezing avocados, looking for the ripest one. Suddenly a man approaches her and starts yelling racial slurs. She freezes in place. Around them, people react in concerned alarm, not sure what to do next.

Take leadership: you start CPR = citizen prepared responsiveness. Walk up and link arms with the woman, or stand cart to cart, or help her steer herself away. You speak to the other bystanders in firm tones. You send one person to call security or 9-1-1 – out of the perimeter of the scene, so the call is not interrupted. You instruct others to join you in AED = activated emergency defense. Hopefully, no guns will be drawn.

Take care of yourself.

Take care of each other.

Take care of the place.

Remember, doing nothing is the worst thing you can do.