During a training session a couple of years ago I was talking about the how the heart works and what can go wrong. A young lady, in her early twenties, seemed to be listening particularly intently. During the break she came up to me and told me her story. Two years previously her Dad, who was a fit, healthy and active 48 year old had collapsed and become unresponsive. She performed CPR to the best of her ability on him until the ambulance arrived.
Sadly he did not recover and was pronounced dead at hospital shortly after. As she was telling me the story she recalled the explanation given to her by the family GP following the post mortem. She remembered the phrases used and admitted that she didn’t fully understand what was being said but realised that she was grieving at the time and unable to take in all of the explanation. She continued to explain that she believed that she hadn’t done well enough and that she was pleased to be on the course so that she could learn how do it better. She just wished she could have done better for her Dad and felt that her failure to deliver the best quality CPR was why he had died. We were both feeling pretty emotional at this point.
When she finished her story I was able to explain what had happened. From her recollection of the phrases used it was apparent that the heart attack had affected the hearts control system and that any amount of CPR would have been ineffective. It was her Dads time to die. I expected some tears from her but instead of that I saw what I felt was a miracle. She blossomed like a flower in front of me as she realised it wasn’t her fault. Her head came up and her shoulders dropped. The tension went out of her face and I was left barely able to speak.
I explained that we train to help the people that can be helped and that we cant tell at the time which ones can be helped and which cant. She continued with the course and went on to demonstrate beautiful CPR techniques.
I caught up with her about a year later and she was a different person. She was engaged and was due to marry in 6 weeks time. Although there was a natural sadness that Dad wasn’t going to be at the wedding a photograph of him would be looking at them as they took their vows. She was happy and vibrant and, most importantly, free of guilt.
We cant be responsible for the outcomes. Our responsibility ends with ensuring we give good quality interventions and care at every opportunity. When we have done that the results are not up to us. There is a time to live and a time to die. Happily she was now in a place where she was able to live her life with happy memories of Dad and be free of guilt.