Vulnerable - Feeling all alone and capable or susceptible of being exposed to a hurt, wound, sad event, etc. (My definition.)
My day was really crazy yesterday. 1 a.m. was when I finally went to bed, after addressing my husband’s pain situation. Back up at 2:30 to give him medication again for pain as it had escalated yet again and he was screaming and banging his hand on the bed edge. At 3:30 a.m., our daughter came upstairs where my room had become to accommodate everyone else.
“Daddy’s pain wake you up?” “Uh huh.” “Alright let’s get you some blankets to sleep on here as you have a cold and can’t be in bed with me.” “Okay! (with sniffles)”
I got up at 7:45 a.m. to let the nurse in, brought her up to date, child woke up, dealt with her and went back to sleep from 10 to 11. Got myself up and going went to an event (I’ll explain below), came home at 4:30, did the nighttime dinner comedy routine, trimmed shrubs and luckily went to bed by 11, though I was up at 1:30 a.m. again for Hubby’s pain.
Why would I tell you what I did yesterday? Let me tell you about the event I was at; it puts the day in complete perspective.
Yesterday afternoon I got the opportunity to go (as a last-minute observer/participant) to a Disaster Simulation Training event. This was put together through Faith Based Churches/Ministries as a way of giving actual “hands on” emergency disaster experience to all the teams who had gotten classes but wanted to apply their knowledge to see what they had learned or needed to learn. Besides the faith-based groups, there were people from ham radio groups, Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD), health departments, police trainees, the state guard and several others.
I’m bad with numbers but I’d guess there were over 100 people participating in this. I came to be an observer, drawing information and posing questions with respects to the vulnerable populations.
I was placed with one group which had been cross-section with both the experienced and non-experienced. They understood I had no intention of getting in their way. But I got drafted! I was paired with a very nice lady from a church Disaster Ministry. Our group’s scenario was to seek out people see if they need treatment, help them and relay the information to the coordinator.
The hitch: Communications were completely down! (This includes the emergency radios that you’d expect to see!) “M” and I went in search and found a person unconscious next to the door of the building. She had me run back to the team leader let him know what we found and in turn he instructed us to keep her stable, and he’d wait for communications to get the first aid team.
When I returned she asked me if I knew CPR. “From about 20+ years ago. What I know is either out of date or rusty.” She gave me the heart beat count and then she and I rotated performing CPR. A little bit later we were instructed to move the person away from the building and bring them near the team leader.
So the five of us picked up the person and carried them for a little bit. We had to set the person down because another team member couldn’t figure out how to carry them easily. So I took my “caregiving” knowledge from transferring hubby (I’m 4’10″, Hubby is 5’11″) and showed her how to grab a limb without hurting the person or themselves. We picked the person back up and proceeded on to the team leader; then resumed the CPR.
About 20 minutes later of non-stop CPR, the scenario ended and the first aid team arrive though in our case the person we were doing CPR on died.
Everyone participating in the event was then gathered, broken into review groups and three positives and negatives were given for the different scenarios. Outside of the usual comments that you might expect to hear out of a situation, only one stood out.
I took the liberty of asking the group how do they feel good/bad with respects to how their scenarios would have gone had their casualties had disabilities or other challenges. Most mumbled answers that they didn’t there would have been much of a difference. But one person said, “We don’t deal with disabilities in these – that’s for other people.” They continued on.
That last comment hurt. I heard that from earlier years in my EP history and those who say things like that have no desire to help the very vulnerable. I did address this comment to the organizer directly. It turns out they were not happy about this; their child is autistic.
The conversation eventually led to an idea they were trying to put together of involving caregivers. I have been kicking around an idea of certifying caregivers for disaster assistance, etc. I’ll keep you posted.
I learned volumes that afternoon. Here are my questions I came up with for me personally:
- Why aren’t caregivers given the ability/encouraged to go through a basic first aid/CPR course for their carees? What if my husband or daughter needed those skills and I had no help?
- What would happen in a disaster if something happened to me? Could my husband address all the details that he and I keep for him? Would my husband and daughter be separated simply because of his medical challenges?
- How would I handle things like CPR, etc if my husband ran out of his pain controlling meds? (Some of his meds keep his nervous system anesthetized so that limbs don’t spasm.)
- What if my husband had a service/seizure dog? Would they be separated due to lack of education?
- How much could I do for my husband medically if he needed access to medical services and I had no help for 30 minutes?
Beside those questions, I had also wondered about how they would help those with different vulnerabilities and overall the answers were: Speak softly, light touch, assume either epilepsy or on drugs, always remove the person from their wheelchair and never allow anyone behind them. I think more answers need to be added.
It took me a bit to realize it, but I had reason to give myself pats on the shoulder: I remembered my CPR and was able to help a person even if my knowledge was 20+ years old; I was able to show a person how to hold another person’s arm when moving them; and I was able to bring an awareness of the vulnerable needs population into the afternoon.
I would sum up my participation in the Disaster Simulation by saying this: I am very glad I went and not just observed but participated too. I learned volumes. Until yesterday I thought I had a pretty good understanding of my family’s (and the communities I advocate for) vulnerabilities should a disaster occur; participating in this disaster simulation simply amplified by magnitudes how vulnerable my family is and that of anyone with high-end medical needs. It is a very scary realization. I now understand why I do what I do in the EP arena.
As a caregiver (I don’t title myself this too often), I clearly understand that there may be a day, that despite all my education, I may not be able to help my husband due to circumstances. But it is my responsibility to become educated so at least I can say, “I tried.” Between knowing you all, your stories and what I do, I am promising to YOU here and now, I am going to try to raise the issue of caregivers and the role they can play in disasters. We are, after all, the hidden “first responders,” the “Disrupter Superheros” with experience.
I remember the day of my husband’s accident and that I was supposed to feel vulnerable between his condition and that of my being pregnant. I remember all the medical personnel who refused to acknowledge my husband’s (then undiagnosed) life threatening spinal disorders and feeling vulnerable in those moments. But none of that can compare to how vulnerable I felt at the end of yesterday afternoon, when I realized that there really is very little disaster training that incorporates (in real world time), members of the vulnerable communities.
I think I can trim shrubs, and be up at all hours of the night. Those are things I can control and not feel exposed or make me capable of being in situations I can’t control.
My slogan of Educate and Advocate has now taken on an even deeper meaning for me.
The Roaring Mouse
(PS This is my review that I’ll also be submitting to my counterparts in EP.)