A Slightly Different Type of CPR

Today was the 4th day in a row of snow/weather/just-too-darned-cold-to-open-school days. My kiddos are actually relaxed and well-rested. Since there was no school, I called my sons’ various music teachers to re-schedule this evening’s lessons for earlier in the day today – that way the teachers can end their day earlier, my family can have a non-rushed dinner together later – it’s a win-win situation. The music teachers happily agreed.

So first-lesson-kid and I bundled up to brave the arctic temperature, got into the car, turned the key in the ignition, and heard, “click click click click click.” Crud. Tried again. Again, “click click click click click” was the response. And tried again: same pathetic sound. Double crud.

Called my husband (whose car had started just fine this morning). “Hi Dougie. If I keep turning the key on a car that won’t start, will it help or will it hurt something?” “Oy. It won’t hurt anything, but it won’t make it start, either. Have the boys push it so you can get it into the street and take the other car.”

No problem. I’ve got three strong sons, and the driveway is flat with a slightly-downhill-slope near the street.¬†Everyone bundled up and went outside. I sat in the driver’s seat to steer and put the car into neutral as the boys leaned into the back of the car.

The car sort of rocked a little.

They tried again. It rocked slightly more. And again.

No dice – the tires were frozen to the driveway. Slightly-stronger-word-than-crud.

Called the first music lesson teacher to explain the situation. Luckily it was not a problem to delay a bit. Called AAA – the lines were busy. Called the local service place – they were so busy jump starting people that they wouldn’t be able to help for many hours. Called my husband again, who remembered that we have a car battery charger.

This, my friends, is like a car defibrillator. Do not live in a cold climate without one.

I went into the basement, found the charger, found an extension cord, plugged everything in, went outside, popped the hood, had one of the kids unlatch the hood because I couldn’t figure out how to do it, hooked the red alligator clip on the charger to the red terminal on the battery, hooked the black to the black, and turned on the charger.

I watched as the charge indicator needle slowly crept up. When it got to 75% full I tried again to start the ignition. “VRRRR, VRRrr, VRrrr, vrrrr, click click click.” And the charge indicator needle was back down to zero. I left the battery to charge and went inside, since at this point the hairs inside my nose were frozen solid, the moisture in my sinuses and lungs had turned to snow, and I’m pretty sure the¬†insides of my eyelids were frozen to my corneas.

Defrosted inside for about 15 minutes. Went out to check: needle at about 80%. Went back inside for another 5 minutes. Went out to check again: needle at 100%. Turned the key. “VRRRR, VRRRR, VROOOOOM!”

Car Power Resuscitation successful.

Put the car into drive, heard the tires crunch out of the ice holding them to the pavement, pulled it out of the driveway, left it running, asked the older two to drive the resuscitated vehicle around for fifteen minutes to fully re-charge the battery, and took the youngest to his bass lesson.

And listened to an incessant “BEEEEEP, BEEEEEP, BEEEEEP, BEEEEEP” the entire way, because the sliding door on the minivan was frozen in a not-quite-completely-latched position. Not a critical problem, so after two unsuccessful attempts to budge the door even a millimeter, I gave up and dealt with the beeping. Not unlike when a monitor in a hospital beeps incessantly and eventually people ignore it (a phenomenon known as “alarm fatigue” – it can actually be a serious safety hazard, since similar to “The Boy Who Cried Wolf,” people can stop responding to signals they assume to be false and miss a true danger warning). So I checked my dashboard every 10 seconds to make sure “left rear door ajar” was the only issue causing the continued beeping.

So. Cars and medicine analogy. Overwhelmed help systems. Battery chargers and defibrillators. Consultations with experts. Teamwork. Knowing how to use rescue equipment. Guarding against alarm fatigue. A snow day’s not necessarily so different from a day at work in the hospital…

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