Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Boy Scout training has helped me save a life or two...

I earned my Eagle Scout a few weeks before my 14th birthday, and stayed with the program through college, and spent 17 years as a professional Scouter. I've had the opportunity--by being in the right place at the right time--to save a couple of lives, but not because of anything special about me. I know how to react in a crisis, and I think most of that ability came from the years I spent as a kid in the BSA.

The first time I saved a life, I had to put my own at risk. We were in Peru, and a man did a foolish thing. He tried to cross a rope bridge over a river running through a narrow canyon in the Andes mountains. He fell. I jumped in after him. The water was glacier run-off, very fast, and it tossed us both against a rock like we weighed nothing. It wasn't a pretty rescue. We both made it out more by the grace of God than by any sort of swimming ability. I know two things about that: 1) I was able to stay calm because I was trained to stay calm, 2) I was also trained that doing something is better than doing nothing.

The second time I saved a life was at no danger to myself. My neighbor across the street was screaming at the top of her lungs. I couldn't see her swimming pool from the window of a bedroom on the second floor of my house, but I could see her over her privacy fence, staring down at the pool at something and screaming her head off.

When someone is standing by a pool, screaming their head off...odds are pretty good there is something in the pool that has struck sheer terror in their heart. There was. Her grand-daughter, a toddler, was in the pool unconscious. I ran across the street, ripped open the gate, and jumped in the pool after the girl. I pulled her out. She was unconscious and not breathing. She started breathing with God's help before I could remember how to do infant mouth-to-mouth.

Last night while at work, I heard someone fall down some stairs near where I was standing. I ran down the stairs and found an older woman lying on her back on the stairs. She was trying to pull herself up. I held her gently by the shoulders and saw blood on her forehead. She must have spun to her right and struck either the banister or the wall on her way down. I held her and told her not to move while I felt (gingerly) the back of her neck to see if there were loose bones. She was able to move her arms and legs. I told her to stay put until help came. Another man came down the stairs and took my position while I used the telephone nearby to summon help. I didn't notice the blood on my hands until after I called 911. I'm kicking myself a little bit for that--the blood came from a wound on the back of her head from striking the brick at the bottom of the stairs.

She was alert and conscious when the paramedics took her to the ambulance. I hope she's okay now.

I'm nothing special in this regard--I'm just trained to react. I think that's one of the many things the BSA means with the motto of "Be Prepared."

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