Dealing with Medical Emergencies
Perhaps the student is ready to end the practice and go home; decide whether it's safe for the student to be alone. You may want to send a friend or another classmate along, or call the student's spouse, a parent, or a friend.
If the situation appears more questionable, you'll need to decide whether to summon emergency medical technicians (EMTs) by calling 911. Always err on the side of caution.
In an obvious emergency—if a student loses consciousness or is badly hurt—delegate responsibility. If CPR is in order, begin resuscitation. Assign a student to call 911, and be sure that student knows how to direct the emergency crew to your exact location. Ask another student to collect the belongings of the person who is in distress, so they will be ready for the EMTs. Look for an emergency contact name and number, either in a wallet or on a studio waiver.
Steps for Preparation
Learn CPR and first aid. Seek training through your local Red Cross (redcross.org) to gain hands-on experience. If no local classes are available, take an online course. Keep your certification current by retraining every two years.
If your studio has an automated external defibrillator (AED), you should be trained in how to use it. These devices can greatly improve survival rates in cases of cardiac arrest.
Know your students' medical histories. Learn students' medical backgrounds—medical waivers are a good idea—and regularly update your knowledge. Periodically remind students to keep you informed if their medical conditions have changed. Be sure to make yourself available for them to approach you privately with any sensitive information.
Carry a phone. Carry a charged cell phone with you, and also know where to find the nearest landline phone.
Know where you are. Post the physical address of your studio by the phone, so that you—or the student designated to call the EMTs—can tell the 911 operator where to find you.
Consider the logistics of emergency response abroad. On retreat or in an unfamiliar place, be sure to know where to locate a working phone and how to summon an ambulance. Remember that other countries use different emergency-response numbers. Stay abreast of students' medical conditions, especially those that may be exacerbated by travel, food, or altitude.
Breathe. Use strengths gained through your own practice to keep yourself calm. When her student went into shock, Drake remembers, "I focused on keeping my breath smooth and even. Amid the chaos of the situation and how scary it was, I felt really calm and centered. I was able to stay focused and peacefully make difficult decisions." Breathe deeply and focus on doing what you can in the present moment.
Sage Rountree, author of The Athlete's Guide to Yoga, teaches yoga and coaches triathletes in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Visit her website at sagerountree.com.
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