As the mother of two accident-prone sons, I’m a dab hand at the ‘kiss it better’ school of nursing. But in terms of emergency first aid know-how, I’m embarrassed to admit my knowledge is minimal. So, when I was offered the chance to learn some tips from an expert, it was an opportunity not to be missed.
I arrive early for the Emergency First Response Paediatric First Aid Class run by Mike White and meet the other participants. We’re a mixed bag. Beth is a Filipina housemaid who has been sent on the course by her employer. Anita, a fellow mum, is an old hand at first aid. ‘The information is constantly changing, and you do need to refresh your knowledge, otherwise you might not be doing the best thing when something happens,’ she explains. Greg, meanwhile, is a kite surfing instructor who is also attending to update his qualifications.
The first part of the session concentrates on CPR and resuscitation. It sounds pretty simple in theory. After all, how hard can mouth-to mouth and chest compressions actually be? But when we get down to business and practice on a child-sized dummy, and then on an infant-sized one, I realise it’s not as easy as it looks. Remembering to tilt the head back, check for breathing, seal off the nose, breathe in hard enough so that the dummy’s chest rises – and count those breaths carefully (five rescue ones, followed by 30 chest compressions, followed by two more breaths and so on) is quite a shopping list in an emergency.
It takes a while before Mike is convinced we’ve all got it. The CPR is the hardest bit, as you have to be directly above the dummy, pushing down hard with straight arms in fast, firm movements. It’s physically demanding and we all get puffed out in the process. ‘Because CPR is hard work, people usually work in a team, so that when one person is tired, someone else can take over. If just one of you knows what to do, and can supervise, it can save a life,’ explains Mike.
Moving a child into the recovery position, whilst supporting their spine, also takes a bit of practice. Greg is our dummy while we work in pairs and attempt to move him from his back to his side. Despite seeing Mike demonstrate it, and watching a short film on it, somehow Greg keeps ending up on his stomach. Eventually, though, we crack it. It’s all in the arm movements, and practice makes perfect.
Next up, we learn how to make doughnut bandages for compound fractures, tie a sling, do the Heimlich and another version of the manoeuvre to clear an infant’s airways in the event of choking. We also discuss burns, jellyfish stings, what to do if children are in shock, or suffering from arterial bleeding – and the kind of kit we should all have in our home and car first aid kits.
By the end of the course, I’m amazed at how much I’ve learned, how little I knew before – and how poorly stocked my first aid kit is (plasters from 1985 and a dried-up tube of Germoline doesn’t cut it). It’s also scary to think that just a few basic skills might actually make the difference between saving and losing a life. Hopefully, I’ll never have to put into practice what I’ve learned, but I’ll keep refreshing those skills – just in case.
For more information on the internationally recognised Emergency First Response certificate – a Paediatric first aid course recommended by PADI, call Mike White on 050 226 5134.
Safe as houses
Back to Basics also runs emergency training courses for families. Follow their top 10 check list to make your home first aid friendly
1 Write your address and nearest landmark down on a wall both upstairs and downstairs in case you need to call for an ambulance. If you panic it’s easier to read off the paper.
2 Keep all your first aid items in one place. If an accident happens, it’s practical to have everything to hand.
3 Does everyone in the house know where the first aid kit is? Ideally, keep it on a shelf out of reach or in a locked cupboard. Accidents can happen anywhere, at the beach, shopping mall etc. Make sure you have a back-up first aid kit in the car too.
4 Do you have a landline in addition to your mobile? In an emergency, you don’t want to be looking for your mobile only to find it’s out of battery or credit.
5 Do you and your home help know exactly where the nearest hospital is and the quickest route to it?
6 If your baby were to choke on something, would you know how to respond? A first aid course will demonstrate the most effective way to remove an obstruction in the throat without causing further damage.
7 Does everyone in your house know how to call the emergency services? (Dial 999 for medical assistance).
8 Make a list of household rules to prevent accidents; pan handles must always face inwards on the stove, no kids in the kitchen whilst preparing food, knives and sharp utensils to be removed from kitchen
surfaces after use etc.
9 Keep medical documents in one place, so everyone knows where they are in case you have to take them quickly to the doctor’s or a hospital.
For more information on first aid courses, visit www.backtobasicsuae.com