Talk Report: 2016-12-14

Tips on First Aid by Sharon Kirwin of St John Ambulance

We may have learned to make a sling for a pretend broken arm at some point in our early youth but many of us have worried that we may not be able to cope helpfully in a real emergency. On Wednesday 14th December help in this was given when Sharon Kirwin of the St John Ambulance organisation came to tell us more.

With life-size dummy figures Sharon showed us how to cope should we find ourselves with someone who has ceased to breathe. She was very keen to point out that we must always think of our own safety: if electricity is live, cut it off; if traffic is about try to divert it and always approach a body cautiously because people who regain consciousness or are having a seizure can react suddenly with violence. It is helpful to talk out loud as one goes to work, to organise the thoughts and to reassure both the sufferer and any persons who may gather around.

First contact the emergency services. Dial 999 if on a landline and – very important – 112 if out and about and using a mobile phone. If your phone has data roaming and it is switched on, the emergency services will be able to pinpoint you using your directions and your call signal to within 100 metres; this will massively speed up their arrival on the scene. First check whether the casualty has an open and clear airway, is breathing normally and showing signs of circulation, such as movement. The pulse can be checked on a person if they are breathing and you are instructed to do so by the emergency call taker. Taking the pulse on the wrist can waste valuable time and Sharon said that it is better to check the pulse with two fingers on the lower neck. Some of us found this tricky so practice on your own neck to discover where! A casualty's brain cell with start to die within 3-4 minutes, so breathing is very important. If a firm tap on the collar-bone, gets no reaction, so we must go to work.

For adults start resuscitation with 30 chest compressions This is done by kneeling down next to the casualty and placing the heel of one hand on their chest with your other fist locked behind it to form a firm tool. Press firmly down into the centre of the chest about 6cms (a good 2 inches) and do this thirty times at two-second intervals. Following that tilt the unresponsive person’s head backwards, pinch the nose and breathe twice with big breaths into their mouth, moving your head away between breaths, so allowing your own lungs the opportunity to recover. The casualty may vomit, but this is not a sign of life, so just move the head to the side, clear the airway of obstruction and then continue the resuscitation sequence. Repeat this process - thirty chest compressions, two deep breaths - until the emergency service arrives, or you are instructed to do something else by the emergency call taker. If breathing into the mouth seems impractical, anyway keep pressing down into the chest.

If you have another person with you, get them to help, because it is tiring depressing the chest! For children use just five initial breaths and only one hand to make deeper compressions - about one third of their body’s depth. With babies under one year do not tip the head back, they should be able to look straight ahead. Give an initial five breaths and using just two fingers on the centre of the chest press down a third of their body depth to create the pressure. In all cases try to work on a hard surface…. better on the floor than on a bed.

Should someone choke in your company, worry if it is so bad that they can’t reply when you talk to them. To encourage the sufferer to cough, lean them forward and give up to five back blows between the shoulder blades, checking between each one if the object has moved. If that hasn't worked, perform up to five abdominal thrusts. Abdominal thrusts are when you apply firm pressure upwards to the central point just beneath the person’s ribcage. If after five back blows and five abdominal thrusts the person is still choking, call an ambulance, but continue the five back blows and five abdominal thrusts alternately whilst waiting for the emergency services. If you are concerned about the person following the choking, advise them to see their GP. Should you choke badly on your own, try to sit back to front on a high-backed chair. Lean heavily on the chair’s back so that it presses up beneath your rib cage and if there is no relief call an ambulance.

A clot in the blood will stop blood going to the heart and is the cause of a heart attack, or it can break up and the fragments can travel to the brain, causing a stroke. If a friend seems to be having a stroke encourage them to hold their arms out in front of them, getting them to close their eyes, one arm may droop, indicating they have had a stroke. With the eyes shut they don't realise their arm is dropping. If the right hand droops, the left side of the brain has been affected; if the left hand droops, the right side has been affected. It is tremendously important that the person reaches hospital as soon as possible so contact the medical services immediately, saying “Fast positive.” Stress furthers the symptoms so until the ambulance arrives sit the person down and try to keep them calm with a conversational approach.

We were advised that there is a free St. John Ambulance Application that we can download into our phones which covers a lot of the routine emergencies we may come across. It was good to have someone with such knowledge talking to us and many questions were asked. It was a lot of information to absorb, but some day one of us might be able to give valuable help in an emergency.
Sharon was thanked for coming to Wells and giving is her professional insight into such a very important subject.

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