Thanks to Francis Guenette on her blog, “disappearing in plain sight, writing about writing” for drawing our attention to Word Press’ “Daily Prompt: In a Crisis” for January 17th. In it Michelle W. poses the challenge: “Honestly evaluate the way you respond to crisis situations. Are you happy with the way you react?” The challenge was interesting enough to encourage Gayle to respond by answering both “no” and “yes,” giving the following examples:
Thirty years ago I was living in Frankfurt, Germany with my late husband Gus and our two children, a daughter (6) and a son (1). I was a stay-at-home mom at the time. Gus came home from work every noon for a hot meal – our dinnertime. We had just finished eating dinner in the kitchen and were still sitting around the table when Gus put our little espresso pot onto the stove to make us some coffee. Now this was the old-fashioned kind of pot into which you put water in the bottom piece, espresso powder into the holed metal basket, added a rubber sealing ring around the top edge of the bottom piece and screwed the empty top piece onto the bottom piece to form a little espresso pot. With the pot on a heating element, the boiling action should have forced the water up through the coffee powder basket and into the top area. Voila – espresso. Unfortunately Gus had neglected to put the sealing ring into place, causing the coffee pot to “explode”! Our one-year-old was trapped in his highchair. Our six-year-old sat frozen to her chair. Gus jumped into action to take the part of the pot still on the element off the burner and turn off the stove. What did I do? Well, obviously without thinking, I got the heck out of the room! I just ran out and left my kids sitting there, never giving them a thought! Was I ever disgusted with myself – and embarrassed. Luckily no one was hurt from the explosion. My kitchen, however, was another story. After hugs all around, Gus took the kids into the bathroom to clean up the three of them. I got busy doing my “penance.” First stripping down to my underwear, I grabbed a stepladder and bucket to wash off the ceiling; put curtains, towels, tablecloth and our clothes into the washing machine and dishes into the dishwasher; applied heaps of elbow grease to clean up the wet and grainy dark brown mess dripping from cupboards, stove, fridge, table, chairs, window, etc. and finally mopped the floor. I’m still embarrassed about my cowardly reaction. What a protective mother I was—not!
Last year when I was visiting my daughter, son-in-law and two grandsons (ages 1 and newborn) in Norway, I was proud and relieved to find out that my reaction to a crisis had changed from “flight” to “fight.” I was holding my 13-day-old grandson Ben at the breakfast table as we were discussing returning to the hospital with him as he was not looking or reacting well. All of a sudden he stopped breathing. I screamed, “He’s not breathing!” My son-in-law and I sprang into action and did CPR on him until the ambulance arrived and the emergency medical personnel took over. Soon a helicopter ambulance flew in carrying a pediatric cardiologist and finally the baby and doctor flew off for a hospital in Oslo with my daughter and son-in-law following in the auto ambulance. I stayed behind to care for the 13-month-old and two dogs. A few hours later my son-in-law called to tell me that Ben was dead and had been baptized at the hospital. I can’t even try to describe how heartsick we all were, still are, and perhaps always will be over the loss of Benjamin. I’ve always heard that the hardest loss is one of a child and now I know how true that is. An autopsy determined that Ben had a previously undetected heart problem which led to his death. Instead of the planned baptism, we began to prepare for a funeral. With God’s help, we all got through it somehow, and found comfort in being together. Considering that our CPR did little to prevent Ben’s death, I was still thankful I had taken a refresher CPR course the previous year and that I had realized instinctively that my best reaction in this particular situation was “fight.”