I am a very anxious person, always have been. I tend to get stuck on seeing the worst that can happen and occasionally I'm paralyzed by that anxiety - this has been particularly bad during my current rotation where, during my day-to-day clinical activities, I'm freezing on what to do.
The funny thing is, though, that in an emergency I'm actually very calm, collected, and I'm comfortable taking control of a situation if it is appropriate for me to do so.
I've gone through first aid training a number of times, and I think that helps, since I've been this way well before I started medical school.
Today my youngest - she'll be 7 months on Tuesday, which is incredibly hard to believe - was having some eggs and started to gag. Then she stopped gagging and just moved her mouth a few times while looking at me. I whipped her out of the high chair, cleared her mouth, inclined her downward over my arm with her mouth open and delivered five hard back blows. She started crying, but it was soft, so I did it again since I felt she might be partially obstructed. She brought something up in her mouth and was none too happy but seemed okay. I took a listen to her lungs, and all fields seem clear and I don't think we need to take her to emerg. I'm studying (well, I'm on a scheduled 10 minute study break right now) so my husband is watching her carefully and if she seems off at all, we'll bring her in.
Thing is, I didn't even think about it. Even with relatively little experience - I've only had to do this once before and it was nearly ten years ago - I still just shifted into the problem-solving algorithms I was taught. I didn't panic, I just got to work.
It's funny how I can be someone who panics at the sight of a bee but when faced with a scary situation, I'm fine. I'm so anxious about my kids getting hurt but when it comes down to the line, I don't feel a second's guilt about hitting my infant hard on the back to clear her airway.
At my stage of training, within the hospital the vast majority of the time my role during a code is "stay the hell out of the way until told to do something" and then probably doing compressions because apparently med students are the muscle during codes at this site.
But outside of learning situatons, I have had to manage emergencies/urgencies - babies choking, person passing out in front of me, witnessing an assault, kid having a seizure, amongst others - and I've been totally fine. Assess the situation. Call for help. Give individual people single instructions. Get to work.
This Mother's Day, I'm grateful for the fact that I have skills which help me keep my kids safe. I'm grateful for the fact that my husband does too; that in an emergency, I know he will be equally quick to put his first aid training to use.
I'm reminded that my job as a mother - like my job as a soon to be physician - is one not only of guidance but of protection, and sometimes you've got to hurt to help and anxiety be damned, I've got a job to do.
If you are someone who cares for young children, please make sure you have first aid training and ensure you have taken infant CPR so that if you are faced with something like today, you will also be comfortable knowing what to do.