Well, it seems I’m a certified first aider now. During three days, I attended a course by St. John’s Ambulance in London to learn how to perform first aid and it’s been interesting.
On Monday, we were asked how confident we felt we could save someone’s life with what we knew about first aid, how confident we were in our skills, and of course, we all said zero or so. No confidence at all. Please, don’t get a paper cut in my presence, because surely you’re not going to survive it. We were told by the end of the course we would feel like wearing our underwear over our trousers, superhero style.
For three days, we’ve been taking notes, looking at pictures and learning what the role of a first aider is. This was a course aimed at a work environment, but we can use our skills outside the workplace, if we choose to do so.
We were 13 attendees, and initially we were feeling a bit quiet, shy, not really knowing what was going on and yes, even a bit out of our depth. After day three, the level of banter and camaraderie was amazing. Of course it helped that both our instructors (Kurtis and Gerry, correct spelling in both) were great at making us feel at ease.
I’ve always thought that if I were to witness an incident which involved blood or broken bones, I would panic (definitely) and possibly even pass out. Once I recovered my senses, if the casualty was still alright, I would make such a mess of things that I would probably make it worse; that is, if I felt confident enough to actually attempt to help. I know so many things can go wrong, that chances are my helping would do more harm than anything else.
We were taught a very simple and silly way of not rushing into the scene, which is to check for danger first, and then put your gloves on (yes, from now on, I’m carrying gloves everywhere I go, it seems). Since we were in the same room for three days, checking for danger every time would get boring pretty soon, so we had to do something else instead which was to move our hands above our head, like getting rid of mosquitoes or a spiderweb and say checking for danger. Since we were not using gloves, we also pretended to put them on by making the gesture and saying putting my gloves on.
You can imagine the level of noise when 6 people were doing this (half the group), right before checking whether the casualties were conscious (the other half) by shouting their names and asking bystanders (the instructors) to wait in case we needed them, or to call an ambulance.
We practised everything on each other (except the most dangerous stuff like abdominal thrusts and CPR), many times on the same person for each set of injuries, which would result in approaching that person, who already had an arm on a sling, and asking them what had happened, before proceeding to bandage their head. By the end of each set, we would be joking with them about what a horrible day they were having.
It was all make believe, but when we were being assessed it really showed the pressure we would be under. A few times during training I killed my casualty by removing my fingers from their chin while trying to keep their airway open. A mistake that I’m happy to have done during training, so that I won’t be doing again. Gerry had to tell me only once for me to feel terrible about myself and what I had just done, so that I didn’t forget after that (Gerry, I need an ambulance, I have an unconscious but breathing… / No, you don’t, your casualty is dead because he can’t breathe anymore! / What, ah, fudge!).
Some also had to repeat exercises because you don’t say things like call an ambulance because he’s having a heart attack, hearing that, the casualty would definitely panic and suffer one!
It was an intense course. We saw videos about broken bones (an open fracture, actually), low blood sugar, scalds, and so much more. We even played a scene in which someone fainted in the Northern Line (true story), by all of us standing close together and someone dropping to the ground, and how to deal with it.
I still think I would get nervous if I were to find myself in a tricky incident, but at least I now know what I definitely shouldn’t do, and what to look for in order to increase the chances of survival or recovering of a casualty. It’s still quite scary to think that someone’s life might depend on what you do (or don’t do), but at least our confidence is much higher.
I think the more people that attend these first aid courses, the better off we would all be, much safer, because there’s a lot of people out there that would rush to help, but unfortunately, because of films and series, and old wives tales, a lot of the stuff we know is wrong. For example, you shouldn’t remove embedded objects, you should immobilise them and get an ambulance. Putting someone in the recovery position really does increase their chances of survival. Making sure someone is immobilised if they have a suspected spine injury is also a life saver. How to check for their breathing and open an airway. Or the fact that you would address first the (lack of) breathing, then then bleeding and finally any broken bones (back injury included).
Did you know that 911 is now an emergency number you can call in the UK? A survey was made amongst children, asking what the emergency number was (999) and most of them said it was 911, because of American films and series.
Did you know there are different positions to put a casualty in, depending of the type of injury they suffer?
Did you know AED (automated external defibrillator) machines, present in all public places (Tube, train stations, shopping centres, etc.) can be used by members of the public if needed?
Anyway, I don’t want to write too much about the different procedures here, because I don’t want to give information that can be misinterpreted! I would recommend everyone to attend a first aid course, though, because it does make you feel like you could save anyone. First aiders are very important to provide early care while the ambulance arrives (which can usually take up to 40 minutes, by the way, plenty of time for someone to get worse if not effective help is given!).
So there you go, I can make a sling or apply dressings effectively, and I know my ABCs and my AMPLE questions. Now I own a (proper) first aid kit as well as a small portable one with gloves and a face mask (for rescue breaths).
I’m not sure I can deal with a paper cut still though! Better call an ambulance!
That last one is obviously a joke, don’t call ambulance for a paper cut, they have more important things to do.