A year and a half ago I was driving to class during that very scary hour in the Fall when dusk mixes with LA haze and basically makes it impossible to see. As I turned the corner near my house and squinted through the sea of headlights, my eyes fixed on a dark lump in the center of the road, and as I got closer it was exactly what I feared it to be: a pedestrian that had been stuck by a vehicle, lying in a growing pool of their own blood.
I calmly pulled my car to the side of the road, put on my hazard lights and assessed the scene. I dropped into immediate EMT brain: scene and person-partner-patient safety. Based on the shocked look of the driver and maybe one or two other people starting to come out of their houses, I realized I had arrived basically just moments after the accident. When I knew it was safe to approach, I went over to the pedestrian and went on to the next steps: I asked the driver to come assist me and hold C-spine. Then the ABCs: intact, but barely. Ds: absolutely. Es: not any that I could see at the moment. I then went straight on down the list to do a rapid trauma head to toe exam, noting some pretty significant injuries that required immediate transport to the hospital (bleeding from the eyes and ears, step-offs in the spine and a badly deformed ankle) and a low GCS (they were unable to speak back to me or move any extremities in a meaningful way). After about twenty seconds went by I realized a crowd had formed but everyone was just standing in stunned silence. This is when I started commanding the crowd: instructed one person to call 911, another to go look for the dog that had apparently been with the pedestrian, another to go inside to get me some towels to attempt to control some of the bleeding (I now carry a full jump bag in my car at all times, just in case) and another few bystanders to help direct oncoming traffic away from us. Based on the condition of the pedestrian I was fully prepared for them to drop into respiratory or cardiac arrest. Fortunately, the paramedics were only a few minutes away and they quickly rushed them to the hospital. I stayed with the driver until the police arrived, cleaned my hands and went on my way to class.
Did my interventions help determine whether or not that pedestrian lived? Maybe, but probably not. Did my ability to help instruct the crowd in a time of panic and give a semi-report to the paramedics when they arrived feel great? You bet it did.
If anything in that paragraph above doesn’t make sense to you: that’s okay! That’s years of work experience as an EMT and ER Tech. Yes, I shamelessly admit that any time I’m in a big crowded place like a basketball game or concert venue the first thing I do is look around for an AED. I owe my ability to calmly assess and act in those situations all to my great education at the UCLA Center for Prehospital Care. However– my point is that we’ve all been in a situation with someone who’s had way too much to drink, is in a terrible car accident, or simply (and frighteningly) goes into cardiac arrest. EVERYONE should learn the basic steps of how to help control and intervene in that kind of situation. Maybe it just means you’re the first one to call 911, or the one to step up to say you’ve had some CPR training. Maybe it just means you reach out to help comfort an anxious mother when their child falls and hits their head. You CAN help make a difference in those situations, no matter what level of healthcare or medical training you’re at. My request is that you spread the word of how important basic First Aid and CPR/BLS training truly are and that you go get certfied- you’ll never know when you might need to step up!