First Aid: I Could Have Done Something If I Knew How

We were chatting and laughing at dad’s hilarious jokes when suddenly he held his chest; in pain, he dropped to the ground. There was no first aid kit nearby and my father suddenly became breathless; he was gasping for air like a fish out of water, with several beads of sweat lining his forehead.

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At Nineteen And Clueless

My Mum started shouting, as you would expect in most homes in our Ghanaian society. I became frightened and helpless; as the nineteen-year-old first boy of the family, I knew I had to do something; for my two other siblings were blank.

By the time we finished arranging for transportation to take my father to the hospital, his condition had worsened; he was now vomiting and almost unarousable with some noisy breathing. At the hospital, I saw nurses and doctors ran up and down, trying their best to save him. They later came to tell my mother the sequence of events they went through to get my father stabilized. But they concluded with their popular phrase, ‘’we are sorry but we lost him’’.

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I asked the Doctor why they couldn’t bring back my father to life and the explanations he offered were reassuring but regrettable. Regrettable because my father as I was told had suffered a heart attack and he could have been revived with a simple and easy to perform a procedure called Cardio-Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR). The Doctor also explained that my father had aspirated some of his vomitus into the lungs and choked on that, hastening his demise. I later learnt that if I had placed my father in the recovery position when he was vomiting in that unarousable state, most or all of the vomitus would have come out and he wouldn’t have suffocated on them.

Were my father, mum and myself victims of an unfortunate but salvageable situation? Yes of course.

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Case studies on CPR

I remember a story read on the news a while back about a lady who found guilty of murder and sentenced to jail. What was her crime? Simple! She was making love to a man who had a heart attack and died subsequently. Had she known how to perform CPR, the story and her life thereafter would have been different.

This discussion on the relevance of CPR is not far-fetched. In fact, a 2014 publication in the popular international research library, Pubmed by some Ghanaian researchers suggested that Cardio-Vascular (heart-related) deaths accounted for more than one-fifth (22.2%) of all causes of deaths from autopsy cases at the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital within a five-year period (2006-2010). These deaths they claimed rose steeply in mid-life (45 – 65 years) reaching a peak in the very old.

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The Ghana Medical Association in another communiqué released during its 58th Annual General Conference in October raised the concern about sudden deaths related to heart attacks and other heart diseases claiming that “it is the number one cause of death in sub-Saharan Africa in adults over the age of 30”. So, this discussion on the increasing sudden deaths in the country is not going to take an abeyance. And something must be done for we cannot look on helplessly on a daily basis as people become victims of such unheralded deaths.

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Staying Prepared

Death they say is inevitable and we all will die one day. I get comfort in that assurance that death will come one day, most of the days we will live. Can this analogy be true for everyone? Definitely not! For some, one day they’re normal, the next they’re different; they don’t know what changed but they realize suddenly that every aching bone is bleeding out and they see themselves crossing over to the other side in pain. In pain for how gruesome they had to leave earth; for how helpless they had become on the spur of the moment though there were people who could have helped them out of their misery had they been endowed with some simple life-saving techniques.

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I speak of the increasing precious lives lost through Road Traffic Accidents. 2017 saw a total of 2,076 human beings perishing in road accidents and this number is just eight people less than the 2,084 people killed in 2016. The statistics are becoming overwhelmingly frightening as the first quarter of 2018 only had 336 deaths from 2095 accidents.

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The First Aid Solution

Will accidents cease from occurring?

I am afraid it will rather continue to claim lives from the increasing commercialization of our livelihood and the busyness of our daily lives; in the technology-driven world where people cross highways while pressing on their phones.

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And this is where First Aid interventions like arresting bleeding, bandaging and performing lifesaving CPR come in.  In a country where there is one functional ambulance to every 527,272 citizens, the ambulance service however equipped cannot be confidently relied on to be available for immediate intervention in saving lives. It is victims of accidents with minor injuries and on-lookers who can take over and help; help mothers, sisters, cousins or even strangers fight for their lives as they are bleeding out profusely or gasping for breath/their lives.

The skills for doing these have to be learnt from professionals as even mishandling of victims can cause more harm than good and when acquired can come in handy one day when one least expects.

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First Aid seeks to educate and empower people to take simple steps using resources available to undertake lifesaving interventions while arranging to send people to the hospital. Accidents and injuries from cuts occur on a daily basis but people lack the basic skills to perform to immediately provide temporary relieve before visiting the hospital.

The International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent (IFRC) recommends that every household has at least one person with a First Aid skill.  First Aid is a must-learn skill for every individual. The Red Cross and the Red Crescent societies are the international bodies globally recognized to provide First Aid training programmes for individuals.

The Ghana Red Cross Society and the Iran Clinic, a member of the Iranian Red Crescent are the institutions providing First Aid training in Ghana. Contact these institutions and learn a skill in saving lives today.

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First Aid Story By Richmond Larweh

Richmond Larweh

The author is a Clinician and a First Aid Instructor. He has undertaken several extensive pieces of training for First Aid Instructors and First Aid volunteers in Ghana.

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