Monday, February 11, 2013

Lesson Ten: Safety

Lesson Ten: Avoiding the Angel Of Death

Many of you, at some point, have had some decent first aid or first responder training. Your instructor probably went to some pains to impress on you that, like the alphabet, medical response begins with the ABCs.

I'm sorry, but you were lied to.

In an earlier lesson, I shared a story about Chad, one of my first instructors. Let me illustrate what I just said about being lied to by telling you about one of Chad's minions: Sam. Sam was very quiet man, who spent most of our lectures sitting quietly in the back. Like a vulture, as it turned out. Chad introduced him early on as "The Angel Of Death," but he told us not to ask why, we'd find out soon enough. And how.

During a break between segments one night early on, the 30 or so of us students were having coffee and junk food. Sam approached one of the students, led him aside, spoke to him briefly, and took him down the hall. Sam came back shortly afterwards, and picked out to two more students. They left too. Our supposed 10 minute break stretched out, and our numbers dwindled. No one was really noticing this at first; I was perhaps the 12th one picked.

"COME WITH ME.*" I followed Sam down the hall, around a corridor, and we stopped about 10 feet from the building’s supply/copy room. We hadn't been taught much, so I had no idea what he expected me to do. We hadn't even gotten to first aid kits.

"THIS IS A PRACTICAL QUIZ – YOU’RE ON," said Sam. I walked up to the door, and laid out on the floor before me were the first 11 people Sam had led off. They were laying on the floor, close together. I looked around. Do I see anything unusual" I asked. "WHAT YOU SEE IS WHAT YOU’VE GOT." said Sam. I knew there was a trick, but I couldn't see the trap. I looked up, down, left, right. It was just a normal copy room. Finally, conscious of time ticking away, I reached down to check a pulse on the nearest "victim."

As my fingertips made contact with his wrist, Sam said, "YOU’RE DEAD. LAY DOWN ON THE FLOOR NEXT TO THE PERSON YOU’RE TOUCHING." 10 other casualties and the original victim softly convulsed in shared snickers. I obligingly lay down and played dead.

Well, our 10-minute break stretched into 30 minutes or more. By which time, the daisy chain of "dead" students extended across the copy room, out the door, and halfway down the hall. And my experience repeated itself over and over.

As Sam "killed" the last student, he had us all get up. By this point, the other half-dozen instructors and assistants were standing at the end of the hall. "How'd it go?" asked Chad. "GOT ‘EM ALL." said Sam. A class of 30 bright, serious people wiped out in almost as many minutes.

Sam then explained to us that the first "victim" had theoretically touched the copier, which had an electrical short, and been electrocuted. And was still in contact with it. As each and every one of us walked up, and completed the circuit, we added to the body count. We, of course, felt stupid. We also learned a valuable lesson without actually "dying." One which we'd actually been taught in the second lecture on the very first night, which hadn't (obviously!) penetrated very well.

The first step in rendering medical assistance isn't A for airway, or B for breathing, or C for circulation. It's S.

For safety. Yours most especially.

Go to the Darwin Awards website, and you can read story after tragic story of someone who died from stupidity, because he didn't proceed safely. 5 people who climbed down a well to rescue a chicken -- 5 drowned, chicken recovering nicely. Man who couldn't swim, jumped into river to save person floating by, both drowned. And so on. Just like us in that copier room, except we could still laugh about it.

A nurse I know got in a fender-bender, and her car stopped against the center divider. Ricky Rescue, First Class EMT driving the other way, saw the accident, parked his car on the other side of the freeway, and ran across six lanes of racing freeway traffic. "Hi! I'm an EMT, can I help?"

The nurse, in pain from injuries, saw his approach, and said through clenched teeth "NO! Anybody so stupid they'd run through traffic is TOO DUMB to lay a hand on me! Stay away!" and she rolled up her window to wait for paramedics. I find it impossible to argue with that logic.

The most important thing to do in an emergency is make sure of safety: yours, the victim's, that of others. You don't want to simply add to the number of victims by becoming one stupidly. And if you did, who's going to then take care of you?

If somebody fell off a cliff, make sure the edge isn't taking you next. When a guy is stabbed or shot, how about making sure the person who did it isn't still hanging about? Don't touch the car crashed into the utility pole with those sparking wires nearby until you're sure it's safe. Don't flip the lights on to check for somebody in that room that smells like...natural gas. And so on.

Fools rush in where angels (well, except for that one) fear to tread. Don't be a fool.

Sam isn't out there waiting for you. But the real Angel Of Death always has room on the bus for one more rider.

*(In hindsight, I realized Sam should speak, just like Death in Terry Pratchett’s hilarious novels, always in capital letters. So his dialog has been changed to thusly comply.)

No comments: