Following my passing the final written exam to become a certified running coach last autumn, I was required to become CPR/first aid certified to back up that training. You know, in case I send someone on a tempo run only to find them in a collapsed heap on the side of a trail, so that my only reaction wouldn't be to silently tip toe away from their twitching corpse.
I found a class that was only a mile from my home, instructed by an amazingly friendly and personable woman who had me repeat the phrase, "My name is Russ, and I'm an Emergency Responder - can I help you?" more times than I care to recall. This, she explained, is the perfect way to introduce yourself when you think someone is in physical trouble: Firstly, you're giving your name to the person. Secondly, "Emergency Responder" could mean any variety of things - doctor, nurse, EMT. It sets the person at ease. Thirdly, "Can I help you?" is a simple yes or no question; easy to answer, and if they don't answer, welp, you kinda can fill in the appropriate response.
Somewhere around the 3rd hour of that 9 hour day, I became keenly aware that such tactics might be implemented on the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. I questioned the Constitutionality of such a practice but caved. She'd broken me. My mind was hers, and there was no returning: I was a changed man. Was the burlap bag over my head and fake electrodes attached to my fingertips necessary? I have no idea. After all, I was merely the student.
Flash forward 2 months: On an out-and-back trail run at Forest Park, I reached the midway point at a trailhead around my mile 5 and paused a few moments as a reward before heading back. I remember shaking out my legs before chopping down in quick steps back to the trail, and was maybe only 10 seconds back into running when I heard the following sounds echo in the canyon. Ahem:
I spun around and found myself sprinting back up toward the winding road that passes the trailhead, and without even thinking found the words, "My name is Russ, and I'm an Emergency Responder - can I help you?" running from my lips. I emerged onto the road and saw a car, completely flipped over on his hood, in the center of the two lane road. An older man was standing beside the car, with it's smashed windows and still-spinning tires. And as I sprinted to him, what do you think the first words out of my mouth were?
He had no immediate injuries, just a cut on his hand from climbing through the decimated driver's side window. A man and a woman emerged from their cars and approached. And what were the first words out of their mouths?
"My name is ____, and I'm an emergency responder. Can I help you?"
We guided traffic around the wreck and dialed 911. Within minutes, paramedics had taken the man aside, wrapped him in a blanket, and began to examine him. I thanked my fellow ERs and headed back on my run, in utter shock. I will never take for granted the training I received, and how prepared for an emergency I was. Or am.
Although late at night, I sometimes awake with a start, the statement so burrowed into me being whispered like a hundred Hail Marys.