Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Life Is Affirmed

Every two years I renew my first aid certification. I've also been trained in dealing with a range of health emergencies, from severe allergic reactions to life-threatening bumps and bruises incurred by a hemophiliac to re-inserting a glass eye. Thankfully, aside from the occasional bandaid or ice pack, I've never had to use any of it. Of course, if you don't use it you lose it, which is why I'm forever going back to make sure I really know how to use an epi-pen or defibrillator or whatever it is I might be called upon to employ.

That said, I'm not a worrier, but I do regularly make people show me again and again, because I want to do it right should I need to.

Yesterday, during circle time, one of my four-year-old friends was attacked by an epileptic seizure. We were singing "There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly," just getting to the cow, when there were gagging sounds coming from where she sat. She had fallen onto a classmate's lap who began instinctively rubbing her head in a comforting way. For about two seconds we all thought it was just kids goofing around, but then, all together, we realized what was happening.

This was one of those times, and there are many, that I am incredibly grateful to teach in a cooperative with lots of adults around to help. One parent-teacher dialed 911 while another phoned her mother. A parent-teacher stuck with me to care for the girl, while the rest of the adults took her classmates outdoors. 

The seizing girl was already in a spot where she wasn't likely to injure herself so we left her where she was as she convulsed. I had been trained to administer rescue medication, which needed to be measured carefully (too much could kill her) into a syringe, then sprayed into each nostril, but only if the seizure lasted more than 4 minutes. As I fumbled with the medicine, I felt as if too much time was passing. I couldn't remember how to install the special nostril attachment to the syringe, I dropped things, I checked and re-checked the instructions, not at all confident I was remembering or even reading them correctly. I was letting the poor girl die through my incompetence.

By the time I was ready to go, however, the seizure seemed to have passed. Her eyelids drooped and she yawned. Her mother had said that she became very sleepy after a seizure so this was a good sign. All told, despite my concern, it had only lasted 1-2 minutes. I had been ready to go in plenty of time after all. She seemed to be sleeping, but her breathing was shallow. We were discussing what was to be done, but then she yawned deeply, taking in a large amount of air. Then she went back to shallow breathing, followed by another big yawn, a cycle that repeated itself several times.

Time does strange things in high adrenaline situations. Yes, it seemed like everything was happening in slow motion, yet at the same time everything seemed to be happening with breathtaking speed. Her mother arrived in an impossibly short amount of time. She had just been around the corner having coffee. The EMTs also seemed to arrive almost as soon as we'd called them, yet the mother who had phoned and waited for them at the curb said it felt like a lifetime.

The EMT's offered to take her to the hospital, but didn't think it was necessary, nor did her mother, so they just went home to sleep it off.

Before bringing the children back inside, I needed a moment. I hadn't noticed it, of course, but the adrenaline had taken me over. It had been comforting to be around the calmness of the girl's mother (who has gone through this before) and the EMTs, but left alone I realized that my body was still primed for fight or flight. I paced back and forth in the classroom for several minutes trying to figure out what to do with myself after they had all left. The kids were outside and it was just the three of us adults who had taken lead roles. I said, "I feel like I need to take a five mile walk." 

Finally, we brought the kids back inside and spent a few minutes discussing what had happened. Before too long the discussion devolved into everyone sharing about their own illnesses and what kinds of vitamin supplements they took.

As we adults talked together the rest of the afternoon, we began to realize that despite it all, we had done everything exactly as we should have, with the possible exception of not immediately noting the time when the seizure started and stopped. If I ever have to deal with another medical emergency like this, one of the first things I'll do after making sure someone is calling 911 is to ask someone else to keep track of the time, noting exactly what happened and when. In this case it turned out to not be important, but it could have been.

Still, the bottom line is that we did what we needed to do and life is affirmed.

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Dienne said...

I started crying at the part where the classmate "instinctively rubbed her head in a comforting way". That only remains instinctive if kids have been allowed to grow up humanely and in a caring community. That instinct gets quickly overridden in the modern-day survival-of-the-fittest, everyone has to read by pre-k or be retained, competitive type environments that are sadly so prevalent in preschools today. You're far too modest to admit this, but you should take some credit for that very humane act - at least for creating the conditions under which it could happen.

Jennifer said...

So scary and something we all fear...being called upon to actually use those life saving skills we refresh every couple of years. I'm glad it all worked out well. I think under pressure, we all know to do what's necessary. I hope you never have to repeat it. So happy your school is a place this family feels safe sending their daughter.

Treva said...

Thank you so very much for being diligent in your readiness. I too have tears streaming down my face. This is my lil cousin. Thank you for your caring nature. Thank you for everything that you do everyday, but most of all, thank you for being there for her when she needed you. Super huge hugs to you!

Anonymous said...

Gosto muito de ver as imagens das crianças no quotidiano do jardim de infância. São inspiradores esses momentos. A infância é para ser vivida enquanto tal e a educação de infância como vida. Parabéns.

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