The Car Accident
If you've ever been involved in a car accident, you know how traumatic it is. I was sitting peacefully inside my apartment, reading a book. I heard the most hellacious screeching noises, a honking car horn, then a terrible thud. There was a car accident, right on my doorstep, practically.
Since the car accident took place immediately outside my building, I slipped on my shoes and ran outside. I had some emergency medical training, in college. It was an elective offered to complete my physical education credits. (I was never any good at gym class). I thought, from the horrible sounds, somebody might be in a whole lot of trouble.
Naturally, my immediate impulse was to offer help. Whenever there's a car accident, people slow down. Sometimes people are rubbernecking, or thrilled at the excitement of a disaster. Sometimes it's more that innate human desire to help someone in desperate trouble.
I saw two cars, both horribly bent and mangled. In the one car, the lady driver was on the cell phone with someone and appeared to be okay--she was conscious, she wasn't conspicuously bleeding anywhere, and usually people that are able to talk, and aren't screaming in pain, are gonna be okay. I'd leave well enough alone there, and let the authorities handle her part of the car accident.
I went to the other car. A man was standing outside the car, also on a cell phone. He said, "911 just answered with a recording and put me on hold."
I looked at the lady in the driver's seat of the car. She was not conscious. I checked her pulse. She had a pulse. I listened for her breathing--I couldn't hear any breathing, her chest wasn't moving!! Oh, no!! We had to DO SOMETHING, right away, to help this lady.
The guy standing outside the car helped me to get her disentangled from the collapsing air bag and seat belt, and helped me to wrestle the poor lady out of the car. I laid her on her side, ran my fingers over the inside of her mouth. I felt sure there was something obstructing her airway, I could feel it at the back of her throat, and she was bleeding from the mouth. I had the guy hold her head firmly in place, then whacked her on the back, solidly. I was prepared to flip her on her back and start mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, if this didn't work. We had lots of practice on Resuscitation Annie in EMT class, and I hoped I remembered enough of it to do it right.
Fortunately, I didn't have to. A piece of the woman's tongue flew from her mouth; she gasped sharply and opened her eyes. She had bit off the tip of her tongue from the force of the collision, then aspirated it.
I had the guy keep holding her head steady. I said to her, "Don't swallow: spit on the ground. You're gonna be alright. Don't move anymore, let's wait for the paramedics."
Her tongue kept bleeding like crazy, but there was very little I could do about that. I didn't want her moved anymore. I hoped like everything she wasn't concussed or had any spinal injuries, because getting her from the car might very well have aggravated those injuries. Normally, if the lady was breathing, and there was a pulse, I would have left her in the car, though unconscious.
The thing about it is, I learned in EMT class, and remember this well: if a person isn't breathing, we have only seven minutes to do something for that person; the person could be dead in seven minutes, otherwise. A person may suffer some brain damage after only 4 or 5 minutes without air. Car accident deaths are often from strangulation or lack of oxygen to the brain.
This is the real bones of this hub: American Red Cross sponsors Emergency Medical Technician training classes all throughout the United States. I'm sure European countries have something similar. If I hadn't had the benefit of those classes, I would not have known what to do. I would have been helpless to help the lady. Truly, she might have died, right there and then, from that car accident and from no one knowing what to do to help her. It really would have been too late by the time the pros showed up. They took thirteen minutes to respond.
These classes tell you what to do. They also tell you what NOT to do, which is almost even more important. As I mentioned earlier, if the lady was breathing, and she had a pulse, I would have left her in the car. I wouldn't have moved her.
What emergency medical training is GREAT for, is the real emergency--when a person isn't breathing, when they have no pulse, when they are choking, or when they are bleeding profusely. This training enables a person to help in those real emergency situations, when a life may depend on just a little bit of knowledge.
I had a friend in school who was in the EMT classes with me. He eventually made a career as a paramedic, after first serving in a volunteer ambulance facility for two or three years. He is much happier in this career than he was as a tool and die maker, though he doesn't earn as much money.
I also had another friend, who was in those same classes with me. She was able to save her little daughter's life after a swimming pool accident, because she knew what to do!
Most of the time, maybe 95% of the time, it's much better to wait for the professional medical people to come to assist. But that 5% of the time, when the situation is critical and there is no time to wait, it really helps to know what to do. That 5% of the time often includes car accidents--maybe car accidents most of all; next is choking in restaurants, and third is swimming pool or drowning incidents.
If you are unemployed, semi-employed, retired, semi-retired, or semi-self-employed, or any permutation of the above situations, maybe getting an EMT certificate could be the path to a new career. Or, maybe it could save a life!
You just never know when this knowledge will come in handy. If you live in snowy country, winter weather can cause car accidents very frequently, and you never know whose life you might save.
- 2011 Training Program Releases
The American Red Cross helps prepare communities for emergencies and keep people safe every day thanks to caring people who support our work. Please support your local Red Cross.
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