Mostly, we do First Aid courses for people who have to attend due to workplace obligations. The courses are workplace accredited, and often, employers will require staff to complete a CPR course annually. The participants come in and sit down, and mostly look resigned to being there to be bored for the next couple of hours. It’s a chore. It costs them money. It’s 2 hours they could be spending with their family on the weekend.
Keep this in mind as you read- it’s 2 hours a year.
Let’s have a look at a scenario.
You’ve been asked to take care of a friend’s 13 month old daughter for a couple of hours while mum goes to get a few chores done. No problems. You’ve raised a couple of your own. You are comfortable around kids. It will be great to spend some time with this beautiful little angel that you have known since the day she was born. Mum hands her to you and she squeals in delight. Her chubby little arms pump up and down with excitement. She spots the dog and struggles to get down to the ground so she can get to work playing. Mum blows kisses and waves as she drives away.
You’re making a cup of tea in the kitchen. The little girl has been playing with the dog in the lounge room, giggling. It’s nice hearing the giggles and gurgles of a toddler in the house again. It’s been a while since your own kids were this little. I might get the blocks out, you think. We might have some fun building blocks and then knocking them down. The phone rings. It’s your mum, ringing to remind you that dad’s birthday is tomorrow. You have a quick chat and tell her you have to go- you’re babysitting! The kettle has boiled. You put a dash of milk in, and pour some milk in a sippy cup for the baby. Then you realise that you haven’t heard the giggling now for a couple of minutes. Where is she?
You see the back door open and you feel a little irresponsible for having not noticed the baby wander outside after the dog. You put the cup of tea and the sippy cup down and stroll outside with a smile on your face, expecting to see the toddler and the dog rolling around on the grass together. What you actually see is that this baby girl has fallen, head first, into the garden pond. She is motionless; face down in the water.
WHAT? IT WAS ONLY A COUPLE OF MINUTES!
In that horrible moment, you panic. It’s a natural, normal human reaction to panic in such a situation. You are normally so clear headed. Logical. Intelligent. You handle everyday stressors pretty well, generally. But faced with this, this surreal, horrible, awful sight, time stands still. A million thoughts are racing around in your head, but they are jumbled, nonsensical, so your mind feels blank. You freeze. You cannot formulate any kind of helpful thought. You cannot remember the emergency phone number. You try to focus, with the horror in the form of bile rising in your throat. You will your mind to start functioning again. Now your legs start to move and you are able to pick the child up, out of the water. Her lips are blue. Her eyes are closed. She is pale. Her chubby arms flop down. She is like a rag doll. Do you run inside with her to the phone first? Do you check for her breathing first? Do you yell out for help- is there even enough time to go get the phone?
Then, you remember one thing. Every year, your first aid trainer has drummed into you- DRSABCD. It always seemed so boring and so repetitive. Now it’s there. It’s made it into your head from somewhere deep in the vault of ‘things I’ll never need but have to do anyway.’
So you follow the acronym that will give this little girl a chance at life. This precious baby is not breathing. You remember the purpose of CPR- to keep oxygenated blood circulating to her vital organs until the Paramedics get there. You keep going. There’s no response. None. It seems like forever until the ambulance arrives and takes over, and then there are drips and airway equipment and drugs and a defibrillator, and a stretcher that looks way too big for this tiny, lifeless body.
All of a sudden you hear one of the Paramedics say ‘We’ve got a pulse’. Those four words echo in your head. You’ve never been a praying person until this moment. You’d give your own life, at this moment, to make this little girl better.
Someone, a neighbour maybe, drives you to the hospital. The little girl’s mum has been called. You don’t know what you are going to say to her when you see her.
Her pulse has remained stable. She is in a serious condition, but she is expected to make it.
Doctors and nurses are telling you that without your actions, this little girl would not have survived. You don’t want to hear it- you feel completely, hopelessly, responsible.
Bad things happen to good people every day, all over the world. We take every precaution we can to protect our children and yet, things can and will still happen.
If something like this were to happen, and you were the first aider present, make sure you are equipped to be that vital link in the chain of survival. Because the chain is only ever as strong as its weakest link.
That’s why it’s important to do CPR refreshers every year. Every year, without fail. Because in that moment of panic, when all logic and rational thought disappears out of your head, you will be glad you sat through those 2 hours every year.