First Aid / CPR is Hard Core.

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

This is a post that I wrote years ago after I took my first CPR/First Aid course. I thought as it fits in with the theme this month (and it makes me laugh), that it might be an entertaining read. I hope you like it. :)

Let me just say that I have a renewed respect for all those people who arrive on scene at an accident, meeting people often on the worst day of their lives, and knowing in an instant exactly what to do to keep them from dying. I say renewed respect because it was there in the first place, but I really didn’t realize the degree to which these people have to know their s@#!.

I spent 20 hours this weekend doing a medical professionals version of the Canadian Red Cross First Aid/CPR course. And, my god, what a humbling experience. I am always struck with awe to realize that there is infinitely more that I don’t know. And even more that I don’t know I don’t know. You know what I mean? I couldn’t believe all the things that we covered. I thought, that after working in clinics for more than 4 years, and seeing a lot of things happen to the human body that I at least had a rudimentary knowledge of what was possible. It turns out that this is not so.

Our teacher, who was awesome, listed his credentials for a full 5 minutes. I missed most of them, but he is both a paramedic and a fire fighter and has been working for a very long time. He regaled us with stories from his years in the field and they were horrifying. I think the high point was as I was sitting there eating my sandwich he asked “in what situation you would NOT administer CPR?” Everyone thought for a minute and someone finally said, “well, if they’re dead?” “Absolutely not!!” he said with vigor. “That is when you absolutely must perform CPR! The only person who can pronounce a person dead is a physician, so by god, you better continue to administer CPR until a paramedic or other qualified professional gets there to take over.” This was met with blank stares and everyone looking around the room at each other. I knew what we were all thinking; well, if you continue to give CPR to a dead person, what else is there? After a long silence he knew we had nothing else to give him. He very matter of factly said: “decapitation, if someone has been cut in half (separated top and bottom – a transverse cut), or if they have been eviscerated (all a person’s essential organs are outside the body). We were stunned. I think I can safely say that no one in the room had given much thought to the fact that these things actually happened in the real world, much less that we might actually have to deal with them someday. He then added that the reason that there was no need to perform CPR in these cases was that there was no way to resuscitate a person in this condition. Like it was the most obvious thing in the world. He then enthusiastically launched into the story of “his first decapitation”. This apparently happened at Warden subway station in a suicide attempt (I believe the attempt was successful, ewww). It was at this point that I had to finally put down my sandwich for a minute. Hard core.

We did a lot of CPR this weekend. We thankfully didn’t have to do it on each other, we had the pleasure of intimately knowing several dummies, both adult, and child. There were some infant dummies as well, and I remember thinking to myself: at what point should I start to feel like lines are being crossed? We got very intimate with those dummies, oh my. But, the good news is, that as long as your head is still firmly attached, your bottom is still connected to your top and your important organs are still inside you, I may be able to breathe life back into your body and persuade your heart to start beating. We even learned how to use a defibrillator which is a very good thing to know. We learned what to do for an infant if you find one that isn’t breathing or unconscious (although the thought of this is still terrifying). We learned what to do if someone drowns, is electrocuted, has first, second or third degree burns (what they have to do to you if you have 3rd degree burns to remove dead tissue almost made me puke), how to deal with someone who has been impaled by an object – this was followed by many bizarre stories of things our instructor had seen impaled in people over the years – how to cope with shock, anaphylaxis which included how to use an epi pen (I had never actually seen one before), how to deal with broken bones, arterial bleeding (you can bleed out in less than 2 minutes, so knowing what to do it super important), how to recognize if someone is having a heart attack, what to do if a diabetic goes into a diabetic coma, what to do if someone is having a seizure, I could sit here and list things for an hour.

I think one of the things that most impressed my nerd self, was learning how to tell, when there is blood coming out of the nose or ears, if it is coming from the brain. Our guy showed us a little technique so you can tell which is great as bleeding in the brain is mucho serioso.

All in all, I am so glad I took it. I was a little sad beforehand as I knew I was giving up a precious summer weekend, but it was so worth it. Our teacher was amazing, and absolutely smashed us full of information. My brain was absolute poo by the end of both days. After a whopper exam at the end we got our little card and were sent into the world after having seen a glimpse of all the crazy and terrible things that can happen to human beings. One thing I am sure of, if something terrible ever befalls me, I hope and pray that Dave is the one who shows up. Then I will know that everything will be ok.

To all those who do this kind of work everyday, my humblest respect.

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