Friday, June 3, 2011



On November 18th of 2009 my good friend Jose Montoya, a neighbor of mine living one floor below me, pounded on the door to my box. I opened it to find my friend lying on the floor of the hallway obviously in distress. He was conscious, having trouble breathing, and couldn't stand, although he tried to get off the floor several times even after my neighbors and I asked him to remain there. A call to 911 was placed immediately, but too soon Jose lost consciousness and never regained it, and never is a long time.
He was just 42 years old when he died that day, most likely of massive heart failure, literally in my arms, as I attempted ineffectively to administer cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) methods I had been trained in. The only problem was that I had been trained in them 18 years previously.
You can read about Jose here:
After this very sad event I talked to my lovely case manager, Erin, about Skid Row Housing Trust approving and sponsoring a CPR / First Aid training program for the residents and staff of SRHT's 20 plus hotels, training that I believed was clearly indicated and needed in the case that this type of medical emergency happened again, which it surely would... and has.
Erin agreed with me that this was a good idea and promised to look into it. I talked to Erin's boss (or one of her bosses) and she agreed as well. I Emailed the head of this operation, SRHT's Executive Director, Mike Alvidrez, after another close friend of mine, Robert Bray, died in his sleep, in March of 2010. He had one of his minions reply that they would look into this.
Robert was also in his 40s... a young man.
But still nothing occurred. Erin seemed decidedly unenthusiastic in setting the program up and I would have to get after her repeatedly. After all, she was all of 26 years old at the time (27 last month), and common knowledge dictates 26 year olds are indestructible and will live forever. Dying and death are the last things 26 year olds are concerned with.
But the problem wasn't with Erin. The problem was money. SRHT trust is mostly funded by donations and grants, and the country (world) was in a bad recession (thank you Republicans). Money was tight, as it remains today (thank you Obama for not providing enough stimulus, buying into the Republicans anti-spending mania, and keeping the same people who helped create the financial meltdown in charge of the financial recovery).
I have a new case manager... Robert, who has been my case manager since last December. Hardly ever talk to him, very nice man though (he gave me two cheese quesadillas Tuesday, and five corn dogs last week... I don't know why).
At Robert's first Resident Meeting (a monthly get together between the building residents and staff... refreshments provided) last January I was delighted when he announced that he planned to begin CPR / First Aid training for residents.
How was this possible? Erin had been trying literally for over a year to get this done. Well little did I know at the time, but Robert himself was and is a certified CPR / First Aid instructor, and has been for years. He was going to provide this service to residents free of charge, or pro bono as he likes to call it (which is Latin for "for the public good"). Normally it would cost anywhere from $50 up for an individual to receive this training and certification. SRHT would pay for the nice training booklets the students would receive.
Well his first class was finally scheduled last week, May 26th, at 9:00AM to noon, and of course I attended. Robert had asked his case manager buddies to let their clients know the class was available, and there was room for 20 to 25 people to attend. Five men and one women showed up for the training which consisted of us watching a training DVD, which Robert paused at certain points at which time he would talk to us about what we had just seen.
It seems the current recommended CPR regimen is mostly focused on keeping the blood circulating through the body and brain until emergency medical assistance arrives on the scene, which for my location is at least five minutes once the 911 call is placed. This is emphasized due to the fact that if the brain is denied oxygen for more that four minutes irreversible damage will begin, and complete brain death in ten. One can help keep the circulation flowing by administering short, but deep (2 inches) thrusts to the victims chest at the rate of approximately 100 per minute. Actual mouth to mouth resuscitation is only recommended if a special mask, or barrier device is on hand to prevent transmission of infectious disease, and at the rate of two breath ventilations into the victim per 30 chest compressions.
We all practiced these chest compressions on the special CPR mannequin Robert had brought with him, and I can tell you dear readers it is exceptionally physically taxing, just for one minute. We learned all kinds of other things as well, like how to assess the immediate vicinity for danger before providing assistance, how to deal with bleeding and shock, how to help a victim who is choking, treat injuries to specific regions of the body, burns, diabetic emergencies, how to use a AED (Automated External Defibrillator), all kinds of stuff to keep the victim alive until professional emergency assistance arrives at the scene and takes over, which is the whole point of learning and providing this type of assistance.
And we got to keep the little booklets! I can look at it anytime I want to. I'm looking at it right now as a matter of fact.
I was very pleased with the class, and am happy to report that Robert plans to make this training available quarterly, for free, for other SRHT residents and staff. And that is exactly what I had hoped for ever since shortly after that Wednesday morning in November of 2009.
I don't know if Jose would be alive today if I knew then what I know now. All I do know is that I did not provide the life sustaining emergency assistance that he required until help arrived simply because I had forgotten what I had learned 18 years ago. I'll have to live with that for the rest of my life. All I can do to make up for that lack of knowledge at that time is to make sure it never happens again, and now I feel exceptionally confident in my ability to provide assistance if it does happen again.
And I assure you I will maintain my certification so it will never happen again.
Thanks to SRHT and Robert future lives may be saved, maybe one day my own.

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