My Adventure in Red Cross CPR Training

Here I am again, after a longish hiatus. i’m feeling inspired and creative. I’m moving forward into this curious, wonderful life I have.

I decided last fall that I was going to get all my ducks in a row and apply to be a special-education assistant for the local school district. To that end, I enrolled in a Red Cross CPR class, which is a requirement for most such jobs.

I signed up and paid my twenty bucks. Then I began to get nervous, and Shy Teresa threatened to take over. I kept telling myself that this would be a great learning experience and an adventure.

I set off on the good old “short bus”, ParaTransit, for the office complex in which the class would take place. I got there early and met the instructor. He was a retired school principal. I could tell that he’d had very little experience around blind folks, but recovered quickly and remained professional.

We watched videos, which had scenarios in them concerning emergency situations. Then we split up into pairs and reversed roles of rescuer and victim. Again, I felt nervous playing the rescuer, because I had to poke and prod and splint and otherwise manipulate body parts of a complete stranger. Oddly enough, I was more concerned about inadvertently harming someone than anything else. My partner was very experienced in CPR, and put me at ease.

Lunchtime was interesting, because the office park the class was held in had no restaurants of any sort. I pointed out to various Red Cross folks at the facility that they might mention this in the class description. I hadn’t brought anything to eat, but as it turned out, some other employees had some bagels and cream cheese left over, so it worked out.

After lunch, it was time for the manekins. We put them on the floor, practiced our “call 911!” scenario once we knew there was no pulse or respiration, and did the thirty chest compressions followed by two rescue breaths. For our practice, everyone was handed disposable plastic masks. Since I had a difficult time finding the opening for the mouth, The instructor gave me a real mask with a one-way valve, which was much easier for me to manipulate.

There were some funny moments. At one point, I got frustrated and said, “Come on you dummy!” The instructor quipped, “Please, it’s manekins in the red Cross; not dummmies.”

We finished the instruction after a bit of quizzing. Sometimes the instructor talked to me, and I wasn’t aware he was doing so. I asked him to use my name when he addressed me, but I do believe he forgot it a fair bit of the time.

All in all, it was a very interesting experience. I still have the rescue mask. I even keep it in my purse. May I never have to use it. But I can if I need to.

By the way, I highly recommend CPR training. It’s informative and provides a bit of skill and confidence in dealing with medical emergencies. I feel that I could at least be instrumental in helping in such a situation.

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Short Bus Tales

I’m finding myself wrangling schedules around. I’ve had a spate of activity that brings my required rides over the 22-ride, $40 a month limit.I’m going to ask some folks if their offers for rides still stand, and that combined with others’ generosity will help everything work out. I don’t want to move up to the next tier, which is $80 a month for 44 rides. The unlimited-ride passes used to be fantastic, but they are no more, at least not where I am.

Actually, I want my self-driving car. Then anyone who wants to go on a ride-about with me can have short bus adventures right along with me, and I can have them whenever I want them. I am really looking forward to taking my self-driving car to the spaceport to ride the elevator to the ISS. It’ll be on my bucket list, and my eyes will be slightly wild and my grey hair will be slightly askew. Ok, maybe a little more than slightly, in both cases. Till then, I’ll keep having short-bus adventures, and promising people that if they let me drive, they definitely won’s be bored.

Short Bus Tales

I’m still here. Christmas week got away from me. I flitted so much that I didn’t sit down and write. I did take the Paratransit short bus last week to my weekly support-group meeting at the church.

I couldn’t decide whether the man driving was in a mean mood, or just outspoken. When we started out, I began to give directions out of my neighborhood, and he began to make a point about it being a shared ride. I think he had some sort of script prepared in case of unpleasantness. That wasn’t my point at all. I wasn’t complaining about sharing a ride. Once he figured out that I was trying to give him directions, he barked, “I’ve already had three backseat drivers today.” Ok, ok, so that meant keep my mouth shut.

After a minute, he asked me where I grew up. He was an unpredictable coot. I kinda liked that. But I was also on eggshells. I played the game. Ok, no backseat driving, but other conversation was fine.

He went on a mild tirade about Las Vegas “not having culinary excellence”. Since that hadn’t been my experience, I was curious about what he meant. Oh, we didn’t have good barbecue places in Vegas. Not like Georgia or Alabama. He said the only food here is Mexican and Asian, and he didn’t like that. Two of my favorite foods. Well, each person has his own tastes, I suppose.

I was sort of amused to note how he muttered at other drivers. “Oh, you must be waiting for New Year’s.” Back to my shut mouth and my book.

It was a weird exchange. Then, a few days later, he drove me again. This time, his mood was less unpleasant, because it was after Christmas. With about five hundred drivers, meeting the same one again in a short period of time is rare. And he was definitely a rare bird.

Short Bus Tales

Riding the short bus is always an adventure. I get a little excited, because I never know what’s going to happen.

Events don’t always take the form of some major visible happening. Sometimes they’re more subtle, if more profound in important aspects.

When I was in high school, I was asked by my special-education teacher and the high school counselor to be a sort of “ambassador of blindness” to elementary schools. Some blind folks I know would be groaning at this point, but I actually enjoy that sort of thing. The kids have some really interesting and fun questions. I also took a pack of Braille alphabet cards, which had both Braille and print letters on them. These were very popular with the kids, and I kept some on hand in my backpack in case friends or family wanted them.

One day, I got on the bus, and someone tapped me on the shoulder. I could tell she was a girl, but I’m not sure how I knew. She made certain sounds, and I knew from experience that they sounded like those a deaf person who didn’t speak words aloud would make. The driver told me her name. Leslie tapped me a few times in a friendly way and made a little verbal-smile sound. That was how I thought of it, anyway.

Every day for about a week, this same routine went on at the same time of day. Leslie would say hi, and if she got off the bus before me, she would tap me again and I would hear, “Bah-bah,” and that wonderful little lilting giggle.

I found myself wishing I knew sign. I was never very good with learning finger signs, because my fingers are unpracticed and clumsy at that sort of thing. If one moves, they all move. I thought, though, that maybe if I showed her what the Braille alphabet looked like, I could at least communicate in a small way. I didn’t know what we’d do after that, but it would at least be a couple of fun and interesting minutes.

When she came by and sat behind me, I handed Leslie a Braille alphabet card. She made a sort of epiphany noise. It’s funny how much expression can be read from a voice. Then she and I sat there for a minute.

Suddenly, Leslie moved to the seat beside me and grabbed my hand. She extended my index finger and put it very carefully on a letter. H. Then O. Then W. My brain froze for a second, and then I had my own “aha” moment.

Leslie was spelling out sentences!

I admit it: I really and truly hadn’t seen that coming. My idea was to show her the alphabet.

We spontaneously hugged each other and made joyful noises. Then “chatted” away, using our own cobbled-together communication method.

We didn’t become fast friends or anything. We lived far from each other. But Leslie worked at the commissary where my family occasionally shopped, and one day, she took our bags out to the car. She gave me that familiar tap and made the familiar Leslie-sound, and I smiled at her. My mom said later that she could tell Leslie recognized me, and wondered how we’d met.

I still think about that wondrous little event with the Braille alphabet. I think it makes my top-ten Wonders of the Short Bus (or even the universe) list.

Short Bus Tales

My latest short-bus adventure is this: I was waiting today on the edge of a parking lot for my ParaTransit ride. My wallet with its compartment containing the cell phone slipped and re-oriented itself upside down. It wasn’t snapped and my cell crashed to the unforgiving pavement. The keypad/circuit-board, faceplate, and battery all went in separate directions. I found two objects with my white cane, then gave up and went to find some eyes to help. A woman I knew found the battery and made sure the phone was in working order.

It turns out that it was only sort-of in working order. The keypad was dead, and I had noticed that the battery-compartment floor had an uneven spot. The circuit-board was most likely shot.

I got to regale the other passengers and the driver with my story. The driver began a minor tirade about how the provider would charge me extra for breaking the phone, which was helpful. Not. It was a free Safelink phone, so I was hoping for a free replacement. I do get one free replacement, so I’d better be careful.

When I got home, I got to use the wonderful NVDA screen-reader to access a chat-room for customer service. That went pretty well. Then I posted to my Facebook friends that they should message me and not try to call. It’s a good thing I’m not much of a voice-call person. I communicate with e-messages a lot.

I was also glad that my iPod was safe and sound, as it is my primary computing device. (I used my husband’s computer for the chat room.) I would have been much more freaked if I’d dropped the iPod.

Short Bus Tales

Riding the short buses for both school and ParaTransit is an unpredictable experience, as you may have guessed. The drivers and passengers have to be prepared for just about anything. There are people with all kinds of special needs.

Recently, I was on a bus with two women, one curmudgeonly and sharp, the other curmudgeonly and less sharp. The sharp one was cracking me up with her comments. The less-sharp one was probably less sharp at that moment because she seemed to be in a lot of pain. She had just come from surgery, and was going to physical therapy. Or perhaps she had had surgery recently and was just starting physical therapy. Sharpie was keeping Owie in line. They apparently knew each other. Every time Owie said something about her medication, Sharpie reminded her that she’d left it at home. Owie kept telling the driver how to do his job; Sharpie would tell her to be quiet.

The driver hit a sizeable bump, and that was when Owie began to compose her own song. She started chanting: “Too bumpy for my knee. Just had surgery. Too bumpy. Too bumpy.” Sharpie came in with percussion intermittently: “shhh! shhh!” “Too bumpy for my knee. Too bumpy for my knee.” “Shhh! Shhh!”

We dropped Sharpie off, and went from beats to something like Gregorian chants. Owie started saying “Ai-ai-ai,” softly and rhythmically. Then it got louder and louder. There was no screaming or tears. The driver started a counterpoint: “you’ll get your medicine when you get home.” Owie started saying: “Need to take my pill. Ai-ai-ai! Need to take my pill. Ai-ai!” She wanted to go home first. We can’t change the route for the bus, and sometimes we’re on for two hours.

I really didn’t know if she was in pain, or just wanted her pain pills, or a bit of both. One minute, I felt bad for her, and the next I felt angry. The next, I wanted to chant along with her.

As I was getting off at my stop, Owie continued her lament. The driver and I exchanged pleasantries tinged with all kinds of mixed emotions. I even heard him chortle and sigh a bit. I don’t know how much longer he had to deal with Owie, but I imagine everybody concerned was glad when she got home.

Short Bus Tales

I lived in Berkeley, California for twenty years, between 1984 and 2004. I din’t really ride a short bus there, although there was a ParaTransit service, which brought disabled folks door to door. The public transportation was so great that I just rode the subway (BART) or the fixed-route buses. Some of those fixed routes had smaller buses on them, but I’d call them medium buses instead of short buses.

I live in a place where I have to take ParaTransit now. Public transportation is not very good in Las Vegas compared to the San Francisco Bay Area. ParaTransit definitely qualifies as a type of short bus. Only variously disabled people can ride it. It has spaces for wheelchairs in the back of the little buses, and a space in front in the vans. There are also cars, but those aren’t in circulation very often.

It’s weird how many drivers for ParaTransit here in the Vegas area have also lived in the Bay Area. Today, I met a driver who had lived in Berkeley during a period that overlapped my stay there. She had been a cop, and then was injured. Using the name of the subway system, BART, would often break the ice with any driver who’d been to the Bay Area. I actually met one driver who had driven fixed-route buses in the Bay Area. She mentioned routes that I recognized. A lot of the ParaTransit drivers have also been truck-drivers.

Some of the drivers are characters and some are all business. One time, a driver told me that all the seats on the bus were available, so I’d know where to sit. Before I could stop myself, I replied: “I only need one.” That had him going every few minutes for a little while. It was fun.

I had a new driver once who drove me home from a water-aerobics class. Usually, it’s a short trip, because it’s only a few miles. I got wrapped up in a book I was reading on the bus, and suddenly realized that quite a lot of time had slid by. It had been about forty-five minutes, so I asked the driver when I was going to get home. My hair was wet, and I had my wet bathing suit wrapped in a towel. “I noticed that you ‘ve dropped off and picked up a bunch of people, so I was just curious,” I explained to him.

“What’s your name?” he asked, panic in his voice.

I had been so quiet in that seat right behind him. Oh, silly me. Oh, poor guy. Based on my experiences on ParaTransit, that was only the beginning for him.