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Self-Injury and First Responder Training

Posted by Tom Benedict on 27/07/2011

I’m about six months away from taking my first responder refresher course. One question I know will come up is whether I’ve had the opportunity to apply what I’ve learned. The answer: yes and no.

I haven’t helped anyone through insulin shock, and haven’t applied CPR. I haven’t performed any water rescues, carries, drags, or had occasion to participate in a mass-casualty incident. I haven’t delivered any babies, either (thank goodness!) But I’ve had too many opportunities to apply the first-aid training we received. Unfortunately most of them were on myself.

I’m injury prone. This is just a fact of life with me. In the past two weeks I’ve burned my foot, given myself reef-rash on the chest, and cut a nice 1/8″ thick slice off my left index finger. I’d love to say this was a busy two weeks, but it’s really not. And calling it two weeks is honestly stretching it. It’s closer to the last ten days.

The irony is I’ve never broken a bone, I still have all ten fingers despite doing machining at high altitude, and on the whole I’m a fairly healthy person. But life leaves scars. I do what I can to learn from my mistakes, and keep a well-stocked first aid kit with me at all times.

Even if they’re not accident-prone like me, I still urge everyone I know to take a first aid and CPR course. (This now includes you, since you’re reading this!) If the opportunity arises, I urge people to take a first-responder course as well, and keep their training current. It has been said that knowledge is power. This is true. And the knowledge of how to treat injury and sickness is powerful indeed.

I also urge people to keep first aid kits close to hand, and to keep them stocked. By definition, practically everything within a first aid kit is a consumable. That means at some point or another it will be consumed and will need to be replaced. Most first aid kits have a restocking list in them. This tells you what the kit came with in the first place. If your kit doesn’t have a restock list, take inventory the day you get it and make your own. A restock list is a start, but it’s by no means an end. When restocking your kit, try to get a feel for what you use the most and double up on those items. Make notations to this effect in the kit’s restock list. If there’s something you wish the kit had (like a flashlight!) add it to the restock list and put one in your kit.

One item that’s missing from most kits is gloves. When treating someone who’s not in your immediate family, body substance isolation is a must. This typically starts with gloves and a pair of eye shields. Glasses do an ok job of protecting the eyes, but nothing takes the place of gloves. I keep two pairs in all my kits, even the ones that never leave my house.

But even the best first aid kit is useless without training. A person with a full-blown trauma kit can still bleed to death if they don’t apply basic techniques. When I cut the tip off my finger I hit some blood vessels that put on a pretty good show. Nothing close to arterial bleeding, but it was pumping at a fairly good clip. Our first responder trainer drilled this one into us on a daily basis for a solid week: The best way to stop bleeding is to apply pressure. Even though it hurt like bejeebers, I applied pressure and the bleeding stopped within minutes. I even got to practice my fingertip dressing afterward!

Do yourself and the people around you a favor. Get trained. Then go out and use that training to help others.

Oh, by the way, helping others is one of the key aspects of a superhero. Congratulations.

– Tom

P.S. Don’t make your gloves part of your costume.

P.P.S. No capes!


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