Today’s daily prompt is an interesting one.
Honestly evaluate the way you respond to crisis situations. Are you happy with the way you react?
I think the answer to this question depends on what type of crisis we are talking about. I previously wrote about an experience I had when I got stuck in an elevator with my dad when I was 21 years old. You can read about it here. The power had gone out after the elevator started moving and we became stuck between floors in that pitch black, cold elevator. My dad fumbled in his pants pocket for his book of matches. He struck a match, whose dim light barely illuminated the elevator panel of buttons. He found the emergency button and pushed it. Nothing. He pushed it again. Still nothing. I considered that a crisis. My always cool and collect dad remained calm as ever. I didn’t. That day, I panicked. My dad let me have it that afternoon and told me I must learn to stay calm and to not panic in an emergency. I have always remembered that valuable lesson. But sometimes, it’s not always easy to do.
I’m a veterinarian and veterinarians are trained to deal with crises and emergencies. I think I handled just about all veterinary emergencies pretty well. Many, many times while practicing, I would have distraught, panicking owners come in with an animal in some sort of crisis and it was my job to calm both the client (owner) and sometimes the animal down. Sometimes I had to physically remove owners from the room because they were upsetting their animals to the point that I couldn’t do MY job effectively. There was the time I had both a very distraught owner and a distraught mixed breed dog come running in the clinic door. The dog, whose eyes were dilated with fear, was foaming at the mouth while whining and pawing vigorously at its muzzle. The owner was absolutely frantic and upsetting the dog even more with her crying and screams. After getting the technician to remove the owner to another room, I was able to quickly access the situation. The culprit? A muddy old pork chop bone lodged in the roof of the dog’s mouth. I grabbed a large pair of hemostats and pulled the pork chop bone out of the dog’s hard palate while calmly talking to the dog and telling him it was going to be o.k. I could feel the dog relaxing while I read his pleading eyes that were saying, “Please help me!” I swabbed the hard palate wound with some iodine, and gave the dog an injection of antibiotic. The owner returned to the room just minutes later to find a happy dog, wagging its tail and covering me, the veterinarian, in slobbery dog kisses.
There was another time when a woman came running into the front door screaming for us to help her. I’ll never forget this woman had blood-soaked coveralls on. I didn’t know what animal she had with her, but I knew there was no possible way it could still be alive. We grabbed the stretcher and went running out to her truck. There in the bed of the truck lay a humongous Great Dane. The bottom of the bed of that small pick up truck was filled with blood. The dog was barely alive. The Great Dane had jumped up on her sliding glass door and its front legs had gone through the glass, completely severing the main arteries and major muscles in the right front leg. Those arteries were still squirting blood with what little blood pressure the dog still had. I didn’t see how any animal could lose that much blood and still be alive. We rushed it in and immediately I went to work. I grabbed every hemostat I could find and started clamping bleeders. Then when the bleeding was under control, I started IV fluids and shock therapy. We also gave it a blood transfusion. That dog miraculously survived the emergency surgery that night to tie off the bleeders, repair the muscles of the leg, and suture the wounds. I remained calm throughout that crisis. The owner panicked enough for all of us.
I’ve raised two boys so there have been many medical crises in our family. We’ve had the usual broken bones, high fevers, and also a very bad case of rotavirus which landed both my young sons in the hospital during an ice storm. Our pediatrician was 8 months pregnant but she was right there with us throughout that whole ordeal. Though all those times were really scary, I think I did a reasonable job at staying calm and getting my sons the medical care that they needed.
I handled losing both my parents to cancer and were with both at their bedsides when they died. It seems we went through crisis after crisis with both of them during their long illnesses. You do what you have to do to get by.
I think overall, I am happy with the way I react in a crisis. Maybe my father succeeded in teaching my 21-year-old self a lesson that day in that dark cold elevator.