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The Power We Hold, The Power We Give

The most powerful thing happened while on vacation last week.

Long story short (Disclaimer- this is NOT in any way a medical story): 

I was on a boat in the Caribbean and a woman developed severe respiratory distress.  I was the only one on the boat with any medical background, as I am a Respiratory Therapist.  There were no medical interventions on board.  I connected with this woman, who was nearing loss of consciousness. And everyone around her was terrified.  I asked her to keep eye contact with me and I started coaching her through a series of breathing exercises.  She was not able to talk, she was pale, and in clear distress. 

By constantly giving her positive reinforcement (“You are doing great.  Keep breathing with me.  Your color is coming back nicely.  Your shoulders are relaxing. Great job- I'm proud of you”), she was able to get out of distress.  By the time we reached the dock, and the paramedics took over she was breathing at a normal rate without distress, she could talk in short sentences, she had good color, and even laughed once. 

Did I save her?  No. She saved herself, with my help.  She was able to focus with me, breathe with me and take on my calm and single focus to get herself out of distress.  My smile, reassurance, and reminders of her status helped her stay focused on her breathing and shut out all the nervous energy around her (and there was A LOT of that).

Energy is a powerful thing, and I am in no way an expert.  As I am a lifelong learner of energy, this was a powerful example of the power we have with energy.  All I did was share my energy with her and create a safe space for her to receive it. 

As I processed this event, I kept coming back to her power to do the hard work during a terrifying time.  Her power to turn her situation around. I thought about my power of staying calm, coaching her in breathing exercises. My power to create a safe and caring space for her to do that work.

This event also helped me realize that I have been a coach far longer than I thought.  I have coached hundreds of patients in this way during my clinical years as a Respiratory Therapist.  So many times, my patients needed a caring space and someone to guide them out of anxiety provoked respiratory distress or panic.  I knew I had a talent in this space, but it wasn’t until last week that I connected the dots of coaching in these forms.

Here’s what I am learning and relearning about this event that apply to my coaching today and can apply to your everyday life:

  • We have the power to influence each other in ways we cannot anticipate

  • When we give our power to another, it is amazing what they can accomplish

  • When we are open to using our power even when we are afraid, unbelievable things can happen

  • The power of love and caring is stronger than we know, and we should share it freely

  • Something as little as eye contact can build trust and safety 

  • Being steady during unsteadiness is a power we can share

I’ll admit I was quite nervous when I was first asked to help.  I hadn’t practiced clinically in a very long time.  But as the event unfolded, I was able to focus on her, and not my fear.  I’m sure I didn’t do things perfectly (and I was certainly rusty), but as they say, “Some things are like riding a bicycle”.

So, go spread your power!  How will you use yours and share it?  I can’t wait to hear!

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