Think fast - Knowing first aid can save a life
In the middle of a relaxing Sunday evening dinner at home, your six-year-old daughter has suddenly gone quiet. She puts her hands around her throat and her eyes begin to bulge. You realise that she is choking.
Quick! What do you do? Do you panic or do you call an ambulance? Do you hit her forcefully on the back or do you tell her to breathe?
The fact is that the decision you make in the brief moments after a medical emergency can be the deciding factor in whether a life is saved or lost. Early recognition and intervention are the key to giving persons who suffer from life-threatening injuries a fair chance at survival. Unfortunately, many Jamaicans do not recognise the value of this critical care known as first aid.
Unlike some developed countries, Jamaica does not boast a well-developed national emergency medical system. Few of us, if faced with a medical emergency, would put our faith in our 119 emergency services to provide an ambulance within these critical first minutes.
Because of this, we find that we, in Jamaica, have developed and perfected the practice of shoving critically injured passengers into the back of the first vehicle we lay eyes on and driving at break-neck speed to the nearest hospital. More often than not, we find that we are only in a hurry to have the casualty pronounced dead.
These initial moments after a medical emergency must not be spent panicking, loading the injured into a car, or waiting powerlessly for help to arrive.
FIRST AID IS FOR EVERYONE
Every Jamaican has the potential to develop the requisite skills to perform simple, methodical tasks in this critical period that can save lives.
First aid isn't for doctors and nurses. First aid is for teachers, fathers, aunts, colleagues, friends, and neighbours. It is for everyone who wants to see the lives of their loved ones preserved. Develop first aid skills. That may very well be the deciding factor in whether or not a casualty becomes a fatality.
By the way: You ask her, "Are you choking?" If she can answer, her airway is only partially blocked, and you should encourage her to cough as forcefully as she can. If she can't respond, her airway is fully obstructed, and you alternate between five back blows and five abdominal thrusts until the object is dislodged.
- Selbourne Webb is co-director of E-FAST (Emergency First-Aid and Safety Training)