First aid procedures changes every year and in Australia, qualification only lasts for three years. There’s also a CPR (Cardiopulmonary resuscitation) component which has to be renewed yearly. I had completed a first aid course in 2006 and it was interesting to see the changes to what is taught in the course. For example, back in 2006 I had to learn all the different slings for broken arms and leg splints but this time I didn’t learn how to do them again. The first aid instructor said that as hospitals and doctor surgeries are so close by that it is not necessary to do sling for anyone. People naturally cradle their arm in a position that is comfortable for them and that you only need to stabilise a limb if you have to travel for a long period. He did briefly show us a few different slings we could do and most of us were just renewing our certificates so we didn’t miss out that much.
The first thing we did was learn CPR, which is learning how to resuscitate someone when they stop breathing. We each had a dummy to practice on, we had to do thirty chest compressions to two breaths. It’s quite the workout because you had to push a third into a person’s chest. You no longer check for the pulse anymore because sometimes it is hard to find a person’s pulse. Instead, you check to see if they are breathing by putting your ear to their mouth to feel any breath and touch their chest. I learnt that you stop resuscitating when help arrives or you are physically incapable of continuing or it’s too dangerous to continue i.e. maybe the environment is not safe. We also learnt how to use a defibrillator which is practically idiot proof as it comes with audio instructions and pictures.
Afterwards, we learnt about a lot of other topics such as hypothermia, poisoning, asthma attacks, diabetes, heart stroke, anaphylaxis, animal bites and car crash injuries. I found it all fascinating and squeamish as the first aid instructor regaled us about the cases he’s seen. He use to a rescue helicopter medic and had served in Iraq.
At the end of the day, we completed a test and we did some role play scenarios. I liked doing the scenarios as it reinforced what we had been learning that day. We were all divided into groups. My group did a scenario where a person had drowned and needed to be resuscitated. So we moved the body away from the “water” and did CPR until the instructor pointed out to us that the defibrillator was on the table.
The next group did a more interesting scenario. We all couldn’t help giggling even though it was meant to be serious. The instructor had asked for a volunteer to play the victim and we walked into a room to hear the sound of a chainsaw. Then we found her lying on the ground holding a toy chainsaw next to a plastic arm! The “victim” said that she had been cutting a tree and accidently cut her arm off. We wouldn’t laugh if it were a real situation but on the day, it just looked so funny.
So the steps in that emergency are:
1. Check for danger- remove the chainsaw and if possible move the casualty because the tree might fall.
2. Call for help – dial the emergency number, use bystanders to call for help or get medical supplies.
3. Reassure the casualty that help is on the way.
4. Bandage the wound- preferably gauze and non-stick bandages or something clean. As blood would be gushing everywhere, bandage tightly with as many bandages as possible.
5. Put amputated arm into a plastic bag or something waterproof and put the bag into some icy water making sure that the limb does not touch any ice.
Overall it was an enjoyable day and I learnt some valuable skills. Like my instructor said, I hope I never have to use those skills. What I particularly remember from the experience is that you need to make sure that you are safe before intervening in an emergency, use common sense and remember that you’re not a doctor.
Photos courtesy of www.wallmart.com ,
http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/arm-pain/Pages/Introduction.aspx , http://www.merckmanuals.com/home/injuries_and_poisoning/first_aid/cardiac_arrest.html