Be Prepared

A Scout troop, three lawyers, a priest, and a state senator save a life at a judicial investiture.

By Charles Spain

Work Life

Upon hearing the Scout motto, “Be prepared,” someone asked Scouting founder Robert Baden-Powell the inevitable follow-up question.

“Prepared for what?”

“Why, for any old thing,” he replied.

And that is what happened at my investiture as a justice on the 14th Court of Appeals in Houston. As an Eagle Scout and the current scoutmaster of my son’s Scouts BSA troop, I asked the Scouts to participate in my investiture by carrying the United States and Texas flags and leading the pledges. The customary formalities followed—introductions and testimonials on how I’d likely work out OK in my new job, all leading up to the ceremonial administration of the oath of office.

But that afternoon in the grand 1910 Harris County Courthouse didn’t follow the program. Our troop chaplain, sitting in a back row, had a cardiac arrest, quietly, except for the sound of his foot falling. Any old thing, indeed.

A lawyer sitting in front of him turned around, recognized something was wrong, and immediately assisted. The Scout troop’s committee chair, who is trained in CPR, noticed the unusual situation and went to help. A staff lawyer for the court trained in CPR and automated external defibrillator use retrieved an AED. The court clerk (a lawyer) called 911. A state senator who is a pharmacist went to assist. A fellow priest prayed and spoke directly to the chaplain while others tended to his body. Older Scouts helped by clearing the area while CPR was performed and the AED was connected.

All of this happened rapidly and without overt coordination. These people were trained and knew what to do. They were prepared. Many in the courtroom didn’t initially understand what was happening. But if you, like me, have had CPR/AED training, the sound of the AED instructing “Preparing shock—move away from the patient,” will get your undivided attention.

It all turned out OK. The troop chaplain was transported to the hospital and now sports an implantable cardio-verter defibrillator, or ICD, seemingly none the worse for the experience. But had my friend been someplace else, the odds are fairly overwhelming that he would have died. Who knew that judicial investitures save lives?

Being prepared makes all the difference. Knowing CPR, having an AED, knowing where it is and how to use it, and calling 911 make all the difference. Most of all, deciding to take action makes all the difference.

One thanks people at an investiture. I especially thank Houston Senior Assistant City Attorney Derek Bauman, troop committee chair Susan Ballard, 14th Court Staff Attorney Nick Pavlov, state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte (ret.), Clerk Chris Prine, the Rev. Lisa Hunt, and the Scouts of Palmer Memorial Episcopal Church’s Troop 511 for both being prepared and taking action. Because of them and because Harris County placed AEDs in the courthouse and the 1st and 14th Courts of Appeals in Houston conducted CPR/AED training, the Rev. John Price is alive and still makes horrible puns that make me groan—he has informed me that the worst part of all this is that he can no longer tell a lie as he has been defibbed.

See that AEDs are available in places where you work or volunteer. Know the location of those AEDs. Get trained in basic first aid/CPR/AED and encourage others to do so. Have a plan.

Be prepared. For any old thing.TBJ

This article, which was originally published in The Houston Lawyer, has been edited and reprinted with permission.


is a justice on the 14th Court of Appeals in Houston.

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