Are you prepared to fail?

Today me and my team failed to resuscitate a woman in her 80s. It wasn’t for lack of trying, but the second I saw her I knew we weren’t going to be able to revive her, 4 years working in a nursing home told me it was too late. We ran chest compressions and a bivy bag along side our AED for 15 minutes before EMS arrived, then swapped back and forth with them for another 17 before they called it. It was simply this womans time to go and no matter how hard we tried, we weren’t going to

As I’m sitting at home going over things in my head I have to wonder, for everything we do to prepare ourselves for whatever may come, have you put the potential for failure in your plans as well?

Myself and one other on my team spent time in the medical field in one capacity or another, we’ve lost people we were trying to save before. The others haven’t and I’ve been messaging back and forth with them making sure they’re alright, so far they seem to be ok.

Moral of the story here is: things don’t always work out and you may end up having to support those around you through something difficult and unexpected (hopefully not from the “other side.”)


Like you said, sometimes it’s People’s time to go and there’s not a wit one can bring to change it.

On a different front, but same point, I’ve been there for four people in my immediate family and a couple of those I intervened because they were at life threatened, compound causes, but intervention was completely appropriate. The rub was ‘elders with complications.’ Sometimes the resuscitation can be successful but the aftermath then becomes a longer journey to passage with unintended suffering.

It always comes down to best intentions, golden hoped for results. But, sometimes that also means a long slow slide into the inevitable. Again, all you / we can do is our best. But I appreciate those who have designated a medical power of attorney and established advance directives, even if it means the MPoA has to make the hardest call of their lives in honor of their charge.

Blessings to you and yours.


Sorry to hear about your loss today, @Spence. I know she wasn’t family, but she was a patient and no matter how long you’ve known someone, their death can be painful.

That is a very real potential in any self-defense situation. It’s part of the reason we train for so many variables. Hopefully if we train enough our failures will be smaller and less costly.

I’ve learned more from my failures than I’ve learned from most of my successes in life. With self-defense, the failure may not give us the opportunity to learn from it - that’s why I train more now.


@Spence I too am sorry for what you experienced. I would not go so far as to say that you failed but that your efforts were not successful. And I believe there is a big difference. I have worn many hats in my life including, fire, police and EMS. There have been so many situations where the outcomes were not the ones we wanted but just were. From performing CPR on a very old woman who suffered a traumatic cardiac arrest and feeling ribs breaking with every compression. The shots fired and finding a young man laying next to a gas pump with a small entry wound to the side of his head with literally hundreds of people within 100 feet that saw nothing, to rolling on a fatal collision and having the coroner tell you that there was an infant in the car with the driver that was not visible until the driver’s body was removed. There are things I have seen that i cannot unsee that wake me up at night. At the time, we did what we were supposed to do, by the book, but bad things happened. Like you said, it was her time to go and nothing anyone did was going to stop that. We are not God and I believe, in the end, it is all part of his plan that i will learn someday, just not in this lifetime.


I am sorry also. For me the closest I have to first aid experience was onboard ship. Everyone must have rescue and assistance team training. In my 3 1/2 years we lost 2 men overboard. We were unsuccessful at finding either. As for the subject question, I have Insurance and plans in place but I would question whether anyone is ever mentally prepared to fail.


Tough day @Spence, glad you are able to take care of your team, and that you’ve got the baseline to do so. Sorry that you need to.

This is a pretty important point. We should have them and we should make sure people around us know we have them. We should also be sure that the person we assign that to is really up to the task of acting on it, and that they have people who can support them in that.

My dad died a few weeks ago after months of hovering and in-and-out of ICU. To continue, or not continue, with extraordinary care became a very challenging question and I watched his wife struggle with that… DNR and MPoA was insufficient to really guide her choices. Fortunately she had good support during the process from other family members. Unfortunately, some family members are now shredding each other over those choices. That may just be a badly modulated reaction to the loss, but maybe more frank conversations up front between my dad and my half-siblings might have led to less trauma that they’re causing each other now. IDK, it’s just unfortunate to see pain added to pain.

On the personal level of preparing, I think knowing that we may, in the course of stopping a threat, take a life is a different prep than knowing that we may, in the course of stopping a threat, fail to save someone, or be responsible for the accidental loss of one. I think that bears considering. a lot.


@Zee that is a very profound but very true observation. They are choices that we are not meant to make and usually run against every thing in our hearts and souls. And they are choices that every person who decides to carry must make every time they walk out their door.
Along with that, each person needs to decide who they are going to protect if something happens. Is your goal to get out alive, help others get out alive or stop the damage? Will your goal be containment or engagement?
And unfortunately, even with all the training in the world, when push comes to shove, you do not know how you or anyone around you is going to react. And, after you do what you do, how will you be affected. If your goal was evacuation or containment, how will that touch you when you look back and thought I might have been able to do more or saved a life. Or if you engaged and you neutralized the threat, what will that do to you? Or the worst possible case, what if you take the shot that hits a friendly? Where will that take you?
This could happen at the grocery store, church, school or the coffee shop. This could happen in your home!
I lead a security team at my church. I have had this discussion with most of the team. Some, I have almost no doubt they will charge to the gunfire and others I am almost as certain that they need to help get people to safety. But, in the end, I have confidence in myself. I have breached and searched buildings on break-in calls but thankfully never had to respond to an active shooter. I know what I think I will do, but in the end, only time will tell. I hope my time never comes.


These topics often deteriorate into a “p^&%#r wagging” contest and I hope this one does not as the original topic and various sentient points are too important to not be addressed. To that end I won’t delve into the sickening sounds of broken ribs or spitting out puke or the faint leap of hope that comes from an agonal breath. I will say to the uninitiated that have never seen a “Code” in real life that they are the most violent, brutal acts of life saving that we still practice today, there are even more barbaric lifesaving measures that will test the nerves and sensibilities of any human, trained or not. That said, they work.

DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) and MPoA (Medical Power of Attorney) as well as a Will and (as I am learning) a Trust are uncomfortable conversations but ones we need to have not only with family but the person in the mirror. More importantly they need to be addressed BEFORE you become “incompetent”. There is nothing worse than watching a dying 90+ y/o that is a full code with dementia or Alzheimer’s finally code and the family is brutally exposed to the reality of a full Code.

In most of my Military world “I” did not give you the privileged of a DNR, and a MPoA was a non issue, I was going to do everything that I thought “might” work to keep you alive as long as you were in my care. I pulled off some pretty wild stuff that worked, other times, not so much. The ones that didn’t make it haunt you until the Jury of You makes peace. Every successful save eases the burden a bit as a it verifies to the Jury of You that you DO know your job and can do it.

When you apply this to a lawful defense of your life that takes a life, all of this will come visit you above and beyond the legal hell you will endure.




Thank you all for your condolences, they are appreciated. After i got home I took some time to reflect and wanted to share that moment of reflection. I suppose fail wasn’t really correct in my situation, but it’s still a good word to communicate what I wanted today.


You are right, unless you’ve been in that situation it’s extremely hard to convey the sound and feel of those ribs breaking and popping, or the smell of blood filled lungs as air is exhaled after rescue breaths.

My goal here was to start a discussion about the realities of what we deal with and so far everyone here hasn’t disappointed. That’s why i love this forum.


I’ve fortunately and unfortunately been in similar situations where success was never an option. When you literally deal with life and death you just have to accept that you will never be able to save them all.

You have to learn to compartmentalize, learn from the failures and celebrate the wins or it will eat you alive.


I’m so sorry to hear about this loss. It’s so depressing watching somebody dying.
I came through it by myself working for Invasive Cardiology Department. I was 21 when I first time saw man dying in front of me. It took me whole week to come back to “normal life”.
That time I wasn’t prepared to fail. Then I understood that we were men only, there was no “God role” for us. People are dying every second, we just don’t see it. Now I know it is something we have to accept.

The other thing is failure in self-defense. I don’t know if I’m prepared to fail here. Never been in situation where death and life are very close. Hopefully I will never experience this. Ideally would be that NOBODY experience this.

Anyway… I’m prepared for final day… but nobody but God will decide when it comes !!! When someone wants to decide about my life-or-death - I"M GONNA BE A WINNER !!!


Spence thank you for the letter. You really made me think of something I never thought of before. I am now rethinking how to work around it (FAILURE) and how to prepare for if it comes.


Welcome to the Community @Duke!

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Spence - I know the feeling very well. I teach First Aid/CPR/AED/BBP and much more. I tell my students all the time about the possibility of failure. Even though, as a provider, you are protected by some version of the Good Samaritan Act - you are never truly prepared for failure. I have experienced both failure & success as a Life Guard and Construction Site Safety Manager. The only way to get through the feeling of failure is to know you have done all you could, to the best of your ability.
Always try to think about your successes.


First time I heard this it changed my way of thinking.


3 successful resuscitations, 8 not successful in my time.

I was a nursing assistant for four years, death doesn’t bother me. That sounds callous, it’s not meant to be. I simply have been exposed to quite a lot of it.

It has been quite awhile since I’ve had to do CPR so I took some time to reflect, and then I decided to share.


There are many types of successes
From cleaning and bandaging a simple cut to picking up body parts after an accident to see if the doctor can reattach them.

I even delivered a baby on the side of a highway many years ago - the fear was almost paralyzing - thank goodness for the clam of the 911 operator

I have held an Aunts leg & ankle together while medics applied an air splint.

Everything we do is in some way a success - you must know your limitations and work to best of your ability.

I was not a nursing assistant - so I am limited in what I can legally do these days - but your experience and knowledge are priceless in an emergency.

Back in the late 1960’s - while the Earth was still cooling (as my kids say) - our training included setting airways, setting bones, emergency tracheotomies and much more. Today none of that is taught any more - they just returned to the use of tourniquets

I am being to winded so I’ll stop here

As I tell my students - Stick to your training and do the best you can.


I am extremely sorry for your loss Spence. I don’t know what you are feeling exactly but I can pray for you and your family. I was through this with many many hundreds of families over the years and each family is unique situation. I will keep you in my thoughts and prayers. Peace to you and your family.

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I didn’t lose anything. I had no emotional attachments to the woman who passed. I felt for her husband, especially since he is a Parkinson’s patient and was unable to leave our hotel until his son could make the 10 hour drive to come get him. We were able to get him moved to another room and he was given a free nights stay.

I chose to use this as a teaching moment, something to help others prepare for when things don’t go as planned.