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First aid makes a difference

Ajai Sreevatsan
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A first responder training class in progress. — Photo: M. Vedan
A first responder training class in progress. — Photo: M. Vedan

About a fortnight ago, M. Jyothilingam saw a two-wheeler rider skid perilously and get thrown off his bike at the Tambaram signal junction. The time was well past 10 p.m. With the help of a couple of bystanders, Mr.Jyothilingam picked up the unconscious victim and moved him to the side of the road.

After alerting the 108 ambulance service, he then proceeded to attend to the victim's wounds. The biker would survive, but many others are not so lucky. With very little awareness and training in emergency response, accident victims or the elderly who suddenly succumb to stroke while walking on the road or children who faint inside classrooms can pin their hopes only on the response time of an ambulance.

Mr. Jyothilingam is among the few who have received formal training from 108 EMRI (Emergency Medical Research Institute) on how to handle emergencies. “Each person is capable of saving lives. You don't really have to be a doctor to care for a person on the road,” he says.

Prabhudoss, regional manager of 108 EMRI, says that though Chennai is a city of seven million people, hardly a few hundreds have been trained in emergency response and critical hour care. “Be it a school or a corporate establishment or a mall, everyone should have a team of first responders,” he says.

Though 108 offers such programmes at a nominal cost for any interested person at its Emergency Medical and Learning Centre, there have not been many takers, he says. However, the Centre has trained many personnel from the Coast Guard, Railways, Home Guards and about 500 traffic policemen.

Adline Divya Israel, director of the Centre says that the 10 minutes that an ambulance takes to reach a victim can make the difference between life and death.

Studies show that in the case of road accident deaths, for example, half of all fatalities occur within the first few minutes. If a bystander had the requisite skill to stabilise a victim before an ambulance reaches the spot, many lives could be saved.

“What we particularly teach is what not to do,” says Dr.Israel. “One can aggravate an injury or paralyse a victim by pulling them forcible. Even those who want to help get very panicky.”

Pointing to western countries where such kind of training is widely imparted, she says that everyone should be trained in basic first-aid care since it is highly impossible to provide medical aid everywhere. “Especially considering the city's traffic congestion, it takes considerable time for an ambulance to reach the victim,” she adds.

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