There was a car accident outside my kids’ school yesterday. As I drove past the school to our usual stopping point, we saw one squished car, one car across the road and at right angles to the parked cars, and one person on the road. At first glance it looked as though she was actually under the car – fortunately she wasn’t, she had just been knocked over and couldn’t get up at first.
There seemed to be a crowd around, and I didn’t want to get in the way, so I continued in to the school with my girls, but I became more and more uneasy, and decided to go down and check whether my first aid skills were needed. It was a good lesson in not making assumptions, because although there were indeed people standing round, and one person doing a great job of comforting the injured lady on the road, no-one at the scene had first aid training, and most were too shocked to be thinking straight. The patient was wearing quite thin trousers and rapidly getting cold, so after working out that there was no blood and that she was talking and able to move a little, I covered her with my coat to keep her warm.
There wasn’t much else to be done. There were three people involved in the accident – two drivers and the pedestrian who got hit – and everyone was pretty shaken. I knew enough from my level 2 first aid course to know that the drivers were at risk of shock, so I kept an eye on them as well as the patient, and pretty soon the police arrived, followed shortly by an ambulance. The ambos took great care of the patient, and it was soon apparent that she was ok, and even able to stand on her own two feet, although they did take her to the hospital just to be on the safe side. They also checked one of the drivers for shock, and generally proved themselves to be kind, empathic and highly competent professionals.
I was profoundly grateful that my first aid skills were largely redundant in this case, but at the same time it strengthened my resolve to keep up my training, to make sure that I know what to do in these kinds of situations. If the patient was bleeding, or had a broken arm or leg, or was going into shock, I’d have known what to do. Despite the letters before my name, I’m not a medical doctor and I’m certainly no substitute for trained paramedics, but having first aid training and being able to stem bleeding or start CPR could be the difference between life and death for someone one day. Maybe a random stranger on the street. Maybe a member of my own family.
Accidents happen with shocking suddenness in the most mundane of circumstances. In the home. Dropping the kids off at school. Shopping. At work. A slip with the lid of a tuna can (I’ve seen this one). A sudden heart attack or stroke (seen this one, too). A car accident (and this). A bad fall (done this one myself). A slip with a kitchen knife or a pair of scissors (done these, too).
A normal day can turn into a life or death situation without any warning at all. First aid training could prepare you to prolong someone’s life, or their sight, or the use of their legs, long enough for an ambulance to arrive.
What are you waiting for? Get trained, or update your training. It could be the difference between watching someone die and seeing them go home to their families.