scenes from the [first aid] front

10 Dec

In preparation for this little adventure of ours, I have done a whole bunch of interesting courses to prepare myself for the passage beyond. I am now a qualified:

The course took three days and was run by St Johns Ambulance. I’ve got the feeling* that St Johns exists in many countries across the world. [I’m too lazy to google this right now.] I completed level one, Stoffel will do level one next week (he was writing his yachtmaster’s exam this week so couldn’t join me. Are we getting savvy or WHAT?), and we will both do our “first aid at sea” modules in January sometime.**

My class had 12 people in it. Luckily, we ploughed through the various modules (emergency scene management! CPR! choking! bleeding and amputation! bone injuries! etcetera etcetera) at a fairly moderate speed, so I didn’t feel the need to separate the class into different categories according to ability.

It was a class of superheros! One man was Buzz Lightyear made flesh and blood. I couldn’t look at him without willing him to boldly shout: “To infinity and beyond!” We also had Elasto-Boy in our class: a seemingly inconspicuous gentleman who shocked and amazed us all when he yawned and stretched one morning after tea and his joints turned in just about every direction possible! The man isn’t just double-jointed: he’s more or less triple (or more!) jointed. Awesome.

There were the Three Witnesses: one actually named Witness, and another two whose names meant “witness” in Xhosa or Arabic respectively.

Add to the mix the Secretary who didn’t like me after, on the first day, we had to present on “medical shock” and I started sketching a spider-diagram (mind map?) to summarise the information we had to present. Secretary didn’t like that at all. I don’t know why… arachnophobe?

What WAS interesting, was that the class had a very pleasing racial and gender profile. (For the non-South Africans, yes, I do think it is dreadfully depressing that we still care about these things, but it will take a whole load of time in addition to our 2-3 Nobel Peace laureates to make us not notice.) 12 persons made up of: 6 black, 3 white and 3 mixed race. 6 men and 6 women. Now, I did say that the breakdown was interesting, and not just numerically pleasing***. The culturally interesting part came when traditional remedies for various ‘ailments’**** were discussed. “Old wives” tales are a treat!

The most distressing story was a remedy for burns. Old (township) wives solution: pour condensed milk on someone who has just been burnt. On the face of it, this might make sense: the condensed milk should cool the wounds. BUT (as our trusty trainer advised from personal experience) this is a BAD idea because the sugar crystallises and then the skin has to be rubbed with steel wool… without painkillers!!! Too ghastly.

The remedy that attracted the most disbelieving guffaws (especially from Buzz Lightyear who joked about it NON STOP for the rest of the course) was Elasto-Boy’s (first hand!!!) account of what to do with someone who has sustained an abdominal injury such that his or her intestines are spilling out (!!!! Please let me never have to deal with this…). Elasto-Boy said that when HIS neighbour had had his abdomen slashed open (as happens when you’re Elasto-Boy), the women had lit a match waved it around the intestines and scared the innards back in! Now I would be the first to admit that this is pretty gnarly in the coolest way possible way, but apparently it ‘works’ only because the heat from the match dries out the intestines and they shrivel up. Dry intestines = bad.

In the end we all learnt the error of our traditional ways (and will now be draping cool wet cloths over both burns and cascading intestines), passed the test and got our complimentary gloves, CPR mask and certificate.

* This feeling was compounded by the Canadian movie demonstrations we were shown in class. 

** It is December and even instructors of first aid at sea go on holiday.

*** I love the numbers 12 and 24. Even a numerically challenged person like me can divide them by SO many other numbers. So satisfying!

**** I use this term very loosely. A third degree burn, say, is not normally classified as an ailment.

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One Response to “scenes from the [first aid] front”

  1. Jo 10 December 2010 at 4:08 pm #

    Beautiful post! Rich in knowledge and facts. I am so impressed and excited with you!

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