Do you rush to the rescue when there is an emergency? GEETA PADMANABHAN says you will if you're trained in first aid

A decorated Army officer lay for three hours on South Delhi's Africa Avenue following a hit-and-run. He had died by the time he was taken to hospital. The family believes he could have been saved. The doctor at the AIIMS trauma centre said, “There is a ‘golden hour' within which if a trauma victim gets medical attention he might be revived.”

“Emergencies can happen anywhere,” said Prof. T. Ramakrishnan, Sri Ramachandra Medical College, Porur, emphasising the need to know first-aid, aka basic life support. “A colleague feels sweaty and uncomfortable because of low glucose levels or develops chest pain — now happening among men in the age group 40-45. He swoons, does not respond to calls. What do you do?”

Indeed. Do you know what to do if a colleague becomes unconscious? If someone falls foaming at the mouth? Suffers an allergic reaction? Is caught in a fire accident? Suffers an electric shock? Bitten by a poisonous snake? If a child slips from a tree or a bicycle? Swallows a coin? Can you save a person from drowning? No soda for someone bleeding in the mouth? Know what a Heimlich manoeuvre is? CPR?

Crucial moments

You will if you're trained in first aid. “If you know basic first aid, even with a little resource, you'll be able to save a life,” assured Prof. Ramakrishnan. “People talk of the golden hour, but the platinum 10 minutes immediately after a mishap are more crucial.” More people die of medical emergencies around us than they do in road accidents. Even in places that are not remote, an ambulance takes its time to arrive. That's where you face the dilemma — sprint away or stay and save? Knowing first aid makes you act responsibly.

Why can't I help, IT pro Kala Balasundaram asked herself, shocked at the sight of people speeding by an accident victim on the OMR. “Only tea vendors and autorickshawmen rush to help,” she said. Three years ago, she took training, gathered a group of pros and co-founded Alert-we care. Since then her committed band of volunteers has been in schools, colleges, corporates, auto-driver congregations, rural areas, wherever they can get a toe in, week-end-to-week-end, to talk of the need to learn emergency response, to have a first aid kit handy. “Like Kalam said, we're trying to get one member in every family to know first aid,” she said. After training 10,000 in Chennai, Alert is seeing the impact. “An engineering student went forward to help an accident victim and a volunteer stopped to call 108.”

“First aid begins with moving the crowd away from the victim,” said Manavalan, para-medic with Traumacare Consortium. Ismail on his team suggests checking and updating the kit in two-wheelers. “All of us should know how to attend to simple cuts and bruises,” he said. “And what to do when the victim is wearing a helmet.” The mantra is ABC — airway, breathing, circulation check. In our rushed life, first aid should go as a basic skill. “There is no joy to equal that of saving a life with that skill.”

Part of curriculum

Make first aid teaching a compulsory part of educational curriculum, they all said, “from class IX onward to M. Ed. NSS students should learn it; so should teachers.” Every classroom must have a well-stocked first-aid kit. “There should be automated external defibrillators (AED) in shopping malls, airplanes, railway stations, movie theatres and in schools with 500+ students,” said Prof. Ramakrishnan. “You should at least be able to call an AED number.” The Traumacare team suggested that school bus drivers and conductors be trained. “All employees, in whatever sector, should go through this training course,” said the Professor. “If asked, we will do it with models, charts and presentations. It must be practical and experiential in schools and colleges.”

“The know-how equips you to do what has to be done. You don't walk away,” said Kala. “What you get is the satisfaction that your knowledge and your readiness to use it at a critical moment were able to save a life. Not everyone is blessed with the chance to play god successfully,” added Hariharan, Traumacare.

Whether you live or travel alone, have children or elderly adults in your household, you need to know first aid techniques so you can respond effectively in an emergency. And if a loved one is in a medical emergency outside home, wouldn't you like someone nearby to know what to do to save him/her?


Call 108 or 2815 0700

Treating minor injuries on the spot can often help an injured person avoid a bigger medical problem.

In an emergency, it's important to know what to do and what not to do.

Children too can learn the basics of first aid.

You can help with serious wounds and injuries if you know important first-aid principles.

All it needs is training and common sense.