Today I skidded on the snow………….and my car was completely out of control!! It must have only lasted about 3 or 4 seconds before I managed to stop it fishtailing and brought it back in line. For those few seconds though I felt powerless and I felt scared! It reminded me of another time in my life when I felt completely out of control and I think, to a certain extent, that incident shaped my future path.
I was probably around 12 or 13 years old and I was at home. I was in the kitchen making myself a drink and I walked out, through our living room and into the hallway. At the same time my Dad was coming out of the bathroom. I was standing in the living room doorway and he was standing in the bathroom doorway, we were facing each other. He had a strange look on his face and I can remember hearing a deep, low roar, the sound you would expect to hear from a bear. I honestly didn’t know where it was coming from and then my Dad’s face twisted until he looked terrifying and unrecognisable. His whole body followed suit and he started to stagger towards me for a few steps before his contorted frame dropped, rigid to the floor and began convulsing violently! I really had no clue what to do, this had never happened before. I remember screaming and pulling at my hair. My Mum ran into the hallway and, although I don’t think she knew what to do either, remained very calm and started to try and put something soft between his head and the big, oak desk he had fallen against. I do remember yelling for her to call an ambulance. That was all I could think………get an ambulance because they will know what to do!
The seizure didn’t last long, maybe a couple of minutes and when his body eventually relaxed I remember his head flopping to the side, eyes wide and staring, and a steady stream of blood running freely from the side of his mouth. I was 100% sure he was dead!
My Dad wasn’t dead but he had had a pretty violent seizure. By the time the Paramedics arrived he had come round and was sitting up, bleeding and very confused. Despite the best efforts of the ambulance crew, my Dad, stubborn as ever, refused to go to hospital and get checked over. He did go onto to make a full recovery and, despite almost biting his tongue in half during the seizure, it healed well.
To this day I have never forgotten that feeling of helplessness! I knew that I couldn’t ever be in that situation again. Although I was still quite young I enrolled onto a St John’s Ambulance first aid course and learned the basics of what to do in an emergency. If I am totally honest, it was about protecting myself as much as it was about protecting and helping my Dad if any future incidents were to occur.
That first course that I took led to many others. About 3 or 4 years later I completed the Paediatric first aid qualification and worked as a nanny for 18 months. Although, at the time, it wasn’t a legal requirement there was no way I was going to be caring for children without knowing that I had the confidence to help them if something went wrong.
About another 3 or 4 years after that I joined the North East Ambulance Service and embarked on my journey as a Paramedic. Since then, I have seen far more heart wrenching and horrific things than that day in my hallway when my big, strong Dad lost control of his body and I temporarily lost control of my mind. One thing that I have not felt again is helpless! As a Paramedic I have walked away from many situations knowing that I did the best I could, and gave all I had.
Most people will learn fast aid reactivity……as I did! Something will happen in their lives and they will realise the importance and value of knowing how to help and will do something about it. We need to be proactive! We need to never remember a time when we didn’t know how to help. In Scandanavia and parts of the USA children are taught first aid from pre-school and it is embedded into the Community. These Countries have a far higher survival rate of cardiac arrests than the UK because the people living in them know how to help and aren’t afraid to. The fear factor has never been an issue for them because since they were children their resilience and safeguarding around first aid has been in place.
I think sometimes, as a Country, as Parents, as Teachers we believe that we are protecting our children from the harsh realities of the world. Shouldn’t we be equipping them with the skills and confidence for the situations they are inevitably going to face at some point. I don’t want any child to feel helpless in the same way that I did!