What Can I Do? #ICE

The shock of Monday’s Boston Marathon tragedy is still fresh.  Under normal circumstances, my words will flow on paper or in real life.  Since 3pm Monday however, I find myself not wanting to say much.  I read news. I read social media outlets.  I retweet the ones that catch my eye.  And I continue to shake my head and my fists in sadness and anger.  I wasn’t in Boston that day.  I do have runner friends that were there, along with their families.  As I connected with them one by one late Monday and into Tuesday, I listened to, and read their stories.  I am so very thankful that all are safe.  I am also brokenhearted that their wonderful weekend was ruined by such horror.

I urge everyone to read some of the personal accounts of the eyewitnesses and runners that day.  Read the stories of family members trying to locate loved ones amid the mass confusion following the bombings.  Families glued to their TVs hoping for a glimpse of their loved ones, and frantically calling unanswered mobile phones over and over and over.  Minutes ticked by, turning into hours before there was any word.  'Your son is in the hospital and has lost both of his legs.' and in other cases worse. I can't imagine the pain and torture of that statement - but I can relate to the preceding hours of panic - and frustration of the unknown.  I have no Boston Marathon 2013 story, but I do see a lesson.

Those that know me in real life know that I’m not wired to pour out my emotions. I’m wired to listen, to analyze, and then dispense practical advice. And that is what today’s post will be.
I hesitated to write this several weeks ago when it occurred, even though the message is the same.  This post is especially relevant after such a tragedy.  Presently, I believe this little blog reaches only runDisney enthusiasts.  I believe this lesson is important enough to reach EVERYONE – runners and non-runners alike, and I hope this brings more readers, that in turn share this post.  I’m also sharing this with my local running club, and online running groups, and hope anyone reading this will do the same.  If you don’t read any of my other posts, that’s fine.  But please read this one.
Early one Saturday last month, DG and I were headed to a local 5K.  We were looking forward to this one especially because this would be our first time racing with some friends.  The husband is good friends with DG and a former triathlete, so he runs with us often.  This race however would also be run by his wife, as she had finally caved to the peer pressure of us three – and agreed to a race.  It’s a great feeling to drag a newbie out for their first 5K.  Because you just KNOW they will become as addicted as you.  So it promised to be a great morning.  I was very eager to run/walk with her, while our husbands ran together further up the pack.  But it wasn’t to be.
On the way to our race, DG spotted a man walking by the side of the road stagger and fall down.  DG stopped the Jeep and I called 911.  Another motorist also stopped to assist.  In what was the longest 15 minutes of my life, we waited for the ambulance to arrive.  During that time, the man appeared to be having a stroke and was really struggling to breathe.  We put the 911 operator on speaker, and DG followed her instructions to the letter.  We both kneeled in the grass next to the man; while DG administered CPR in the manner directed, I held the man’s hand and prayed quietly.  A passerby flagged down a Deputy Sheriff.  The officer brought a defribrillator and took over the situation.  But about three minutes before the ambulance arrived, we saw this man breathe his very last breath. 
There were others that stopped to help.  They had searched the man’s truck and his pockets. No mobile phone. No emergency contact info.  I was sick with grief for this poor man’s family, expecting him to come home.

We never made it to our race. We called our friends and explained. We were both shaken by the events that morning.  So we went to see our priest, and I talked out some of my thoughts.  The paramedics told us that we could not have saved him.  But that did little to lighten my heart.  We had discovered the man lived just down the road from where he collapsed.  There would have been time to notify a family member, or even for one to arrive on the scene while he was still alive.  A family member would surely know if there was a history of a heart condition or stroke, diabetes, or something else that may have caused him to collapse.  Instead, this poor man died on the side of highway, surrounded by strangers. And while everyone that stopped to ‘help’ was well-intentioned, we were all in effect, helpless in our ignorance.
Let me say that I am in absolute AWE of police, firefighters, and medical staff that deal with similar situations on a daily basis.  You all are amazing individuals.  Oddly enough, DG and myself have many family members (including both of his parents and my Dad) with backgrounds in medicine and health care.  They would all know exactly what to do – but neither of us had the inclination to pursue healthcare as a profession, and that day I was very angry with myself over my lack of knowledge.
So I tried to make sense of what had happened. And I came to a conclusion. After the initial shock of what I witnessed, what upset me most was that the man did not have any emergency contact information on him.  I thought of my Dad, in his mid 60s, with multiple health issues, living in a busy Washington DC neighborhood. I imagined something similar happening, and strangers scrambling to find out who to call.  I thought of my mother, struggling with early onset dementia for the past nine years.  She lives in Tampa, and is well looked after; but on two occasions has wandered off and been unable to remember where she was.  And I thought of DG, beginning his training for the Goofy Challenge (since that day it has become Dopey Challenge training), and I thought of the many long hours he would be out running on the trails or roads.   Anything could happen to my parents or my husband, and no one would know to call me!   And then I looked down at my RoadID, a gift from DG that I had specifically requested once I started longer training runs.
That night, I gathered info and ordered some ICE (In Case of Emergency) bracelets. I also told my loved ones WHY it is important to wear them, and that ANYTHING can happen unexpectedly.  And I stressed that I would be heartbroken and furious if I wasn’t notified immediately.  I’ve lived 1000+ miles away from both of my parents for most of the past 20 years, and sometimes have found out over a week later that there was an accident or a hospital stay.  Stuff would happen and no one called me.  This would finally put a stop to that.
We are human, we are vulnerable, we should hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.  For most of us it won’t be a stroke, or the mass chaos of a terrorist attack.  And we should give thanks that it isn’t.  But running on a familiar trail and tripping over a fallen branch… I could see that happening to me, or to DG.  A car accident, a ‘slip and fall’ in a store, a child taking off and running into a crowd at a theme park.  These things happen everyday.  Sure some runners put one on for a long training session, but really, how often do you see the average person on the street wearing an ICE bracelet?

So that is my practical advice.  Wear an ICE bracelet everyday.  Running, cycling, grocery shopping, to the playground, to the office, whatever you do - please have something.  And for your loved ones too, as soon as you can, gather the info you need and get something for them also.  Don't put your family through hours of not knowing.  It is pure hell to wait for news like that.  If you are not able to call, someone on the scene will have a mobile and can call the numbers on your bracelet.
This is not a promotional post.  There are no coupons or giveaways.  Hopefully in the future I will do one. 
Health, Safety, and Peace of Mind should not wait for a discount code though.

What to put on an ICE bracelet 
Mine contains the following information:   
  • FirstName LastName / b. 1972 (year of birth is helpful to first responders)
  • Walt 850.555.5555 Husband
  • JC 202.555.5555 Sister
  • Donor/Allergic to NSAIDS (any allergies or medical conditions – are important)
  • Catholic – Call Priest (hope we never need that one)

Other suggestions: blood type, donor status, food allergies, asthma, gastric bypass, implant devices, stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes, etc. Really ANYTHING that might be important can go on there.  There are character limits for each line, so do some googling for common and recognizable abbreviations, e.g. HI BP.

Where does one get an ICE bracelet?
I went with Road ID; it was designed for runners and triathletes, and has everything I wanted.  I really like Road ID’s Wrist ID Elite for seniors and perhaps some children.  It is a bit tricky to put on and remove, so they may be less likely to ditch it when you aren’t looking. DG and I both wear the Wrist ID Sport, but I will be ordering a Wrist ID Slim here soon.

These are some other vendors I found online.  I’ve not tried these personally and cannot comment on them.

In the days and weeks ahead, we will continue to learn more, and mentally and emotionally process Monday’s bombings.  They will no doubt be in the forefront of our thoughts at many of our future races.  Runners are people of action.  Right now, the entire running community is primed and ready to take action – but we continue to ask, “What can I do?”  Some will give blood to their local Red Cross.  Some will offer up #PrayersforBoston. Some will wear race shirts. Some will run 26.2, or 5.2, or 4.09 in local events wearing memorial bibs.
But this is something that EVERYONE reading this can DO TODAY.  And no, it cannot help the victims from Monday, not in a tangible way.  But it does show that we can always learn something from tragedy.  I learned that lesson several weeks ago on the shoulder of a state highway, waiting for an ambulance that seemed to take forever.  I should have shared it then.  But then this happened. 
Nothing but time and faith can heal the scars from the Boston Marathon tragedy. But this small action, the simple wearing of emergency contact information, THIS can bring you and your loved ones a little bit of peace.
(DG adds:  In addition to the above, take a CPR class and learn basic first aid.  Hope you never need it, but be prepared if you do. ) Excellent advice!
Note: This blog post is not a product review or promotion for any of the vendors listed.  I was not compensated in any way for writing this.  Bracelets were purchased by myself and DG, not gifted by anyone. All opinions are my own.
I would really love it if you comment and tell us that you ordered an ICE bracelet.

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