A First Aid Training Manual – ‘Shut Up or Get the H*** Out’

First Aid training is a necessary evil for all police officers. We absolutely need it, and back in the 1980’s, we spent two full weeks getting the training in the police academy.  At the time, California law mandated that every police officer be updated 8 hours every year, but the training and the test were rote and most of us scored 100 percent. If we weren’t coached, wink, wink, by the instructors, we remembered the answers we got wrong the year before.

The call was of a woman not breathing in my city of nine square miles and I was two blocks from her house. As I arrived, 5:00 p.m. on a breezy evening, I saw the front door open and heard pandemonium inside. I ran into the house and was met with the scene of two hysterical teenagers in a screaming meltdown and a woman, who was apparently their mother, gasping for breath, and turning blue.

Turning “blue” sounds like hyperbole, but I have seen it; a babysitter calling 9-1-1 because a baby was choking (obstruction cleared-baby OK!); my mother’s fingernails when she was on oxygen and slowly dying of pulmonary hypertension; and this woman sitting on the couch, taking tiny short gasps, frantic for breath, panic in her eyes.

I had absolutely no thought, no plan of how this was to be handled. I yelled at the daughters, “Shut up or get the h*** out – you are making this worse!” I barely remember saying the words and it was certainly not a Christian way to respond.  There was instant silence as the girls stared at me dumbfounded. I grabbed the mother by the shoulders in a death grip to get her attention, hit my forehead, and said, “Look at me – here!” Startled, she looked at me and I said in a no-nonsense voice, “Breath. Slowly. In. Out.” She locked eyes and for the next few minutes started to get deeper breaths as I repeated, in, out, in, out.

The paramedics arrived within five minutes. By that time, I had her taking ever deeper breaths, but the real relief was when they put the oxygen mask on her. As this was a medical assistance to the paramedics, no report was necessary, so the situation was over. I told the daughters they needed to be calm if their mom was having an asthma attack. And, because at that time, I was not walking with the Lord, I did not give glory to God, for putting me in this situation and leading me to respond as I did, but he was.

Did I save her life? I don’t think so. She probably would have passed out, eliminating her anxiety which would have helped her constricted breathing. The paramedics were close enough, and they would have put her on oxygen immediately. But maybe I did, and that is why God put me there. Those kids needed their mother.

All I know is this. After all the training in first aid, I never received instruction to respond to a situation such as this – yell at the daughters to control the hysteria and treat the mother as I did to respond to me. It was not me handling this but the Holy Spirit putting me in motion. God used me.

Although I was saved at 14 years of age, I went my own way in college and through a 35-year police career. He found me again just before I retired. But I find that over my entire career, even though I was not reading the Bible or walking with him, he was watching over me.

As I am now serving God, my life has never been better. Two months ago, my two elderly aunts and I were on a cruise and there was a commotion at the next table in the dining room. I looked over to see several stunned people, and a waiter trying to ineffectually assist an elderly man who was choking – and turning blue. Without thinking, I ran over, pulled the relieved waiter aside, and gave a sharp chest compression without effect. I then doubled my fists together and delivered three sharp blows to the back and went down to see the effect. He immediately started coughing, which was the sign he was getting air and had cleared the obstruction, although he was gasping for breath.  As he was breathing on his own, I quietly left and finished my dinner. Ship medical crew arrived a short time later to check him out. The diners at his table thanked me profusely.

This obviously caused a stir in the dining room. As I was leaving, two gentlemen beamed at me … at “what a great job I did.” I said, “Oh no, I have been a cop for over 30 years, it is just training.” I got my elderly aunts to the casino and went up to my room. And then I was convicted. Twenty years before, I did not thank or give credit to God for filling me with his Spirit to provide medical assistance to the woman having an asthma attack. Now, I was taking credit for the choking episode because I was an awesome retired cop with incredible training.

Although I did not apologize to the hysterical teenager twenty years ago, when I got to my room, I got down on my knees and apologized to God because this was his good works, and he put his Spirit in me to make it happen. He should have been given the glory, but I grabbed it for myself.

God listens, and he acknowledged. As I got on the elevator to retrieve the aunts from the casino, a woman said, “Oh, you saved that man from choking!”

This was my opportunity. I said, “No, ma’am, the glory goes to God because he is the one who provided the training and for this to happen.”

Over the next few days, people would find me to talk about the event, and God continued to give me the opportunity to give him the glory, because it is all his.

Although I was not walking with him through my police career, he was taking care of the “blue” woman, the choking man on the ship, and watching over me.

– Officer Prudence Merriott

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