09 April 2008

What would you do?

For the last two days I've been taking an emergency first aid course. Just another perk about moving to East Africa. What do you do when there's a fire, car accident, earthquake, explosion and there's no 911 to call? At the start of the class the instructor gave us a scenario and we all sat dumbfounded, thinking about what to do. She asked if anyone felt overwhelmed and almost all of us raised our hands. At the end of the class the instructor went back to the same scenario and we were all able to triage the situation. I now know how to stabilize a chest flail with my shoe. (I also now know what a chest flail is!) I feel a little like MacGuyver. I hope that at the very least, if faced with a traumatic situation, I've learned not to panic and freeze and if nothing else provide good bedside manner if I can't remember any of the physical patch-ups.

If you witness a car accident, if you see someone faint on the sidewalk, if your kid impales himself with a pen, if your grandma spills boiling water on herself, do you know what to do? It's amazing how learning a few simple tricks can alleviate pain and hopefully save a life. I didn't know an organized way of responding to a scene. Now I do. The instructor pointed out that if there was an explosion in the building we were in in Fairfax County, Virginia, it could take several hours to get all the victims to the hospital. Even in first-world suburban and urban neighborhoods, ambulances take time and the more victims you have, the more ambulances you need. It's easy to take calling 911 for granted when that's what we're trained to do from the time we first learn to use a telephone. But whether you're in Georgetown, D.C., or Georgetown, Guyana, you don't have to sit helplessly.

My course was set-up through Mike's employer but the American Red Cross offers courses for everyone.


Justin said...

so what is a chest flail - we need to know in case it happens!!

Stephanie said...

It's when three or more consecutive ribs are broken in two or more places, so a large section of ribcage is broken. The broken part will move opposite of the rest of the ribcage so you have to put it back into alignment. Pack the flail with cloth and find something that simulates a breastbone (like a flip-flop or Converse All-Star) and tape it all up.

Cara Lopez Lee said...

I learned first aid and CPR in my early youth, many many moons ago. You made me realize the importance of taking a course again, especially since I have plenty more third-world trips on my list.

Thanks for the info on the chest flail. Hope I never have to deal with one, but boy will I feel like a hero if I do... so long as I don't get your instructions all wrong!


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