Call to First Aid - How Much of a First Aider Are You?


I have recently taken a First Aid course offered by an experienced and very well prepared Canadian Red Cross representative, as a compulsory part of my yoga teacher training. This course offered me a First Aider certificate, valid for 3 years.

In the past, I participated in a less formal course, which not only took away the little confidence I had to intervene in emergencies, but made me realize how little I know about offering some immediate help to a person in need. Nevertheless, I was always 100% sure I couldn't sleep at night nor live with myself, acknowledging that I could have saved someone by knowing some easy first aid principles. Especially if that someone was a person I love. Furthermore, I feel a responsibility towards my future kids and my future yoga students. And, looking at it from a different perspective, wouldn't you like to be the hero of the hour in case of an emergency? "Once more, Super-Diana has rescued the day!" That would make me feel awesome. :)

Joking aside, there are some reasons why people don’t intervene in emergency cases:

  1. Diluted responsibility, when other persons are the scene.
  2. Feeling uncomfortable treating an ill or injured person, because of:
    • Personal, age or other kind of differences.
    • A natural adverse reaction to blood, broken bones, etc (e.g. repulse).
    • Fear of catching a disease.
  3. Fear of doing something wrong.

For me the last one is the most valid reason. But, I must say, after taking this course, not only my sense of responsibility has risen, but now I feel confident that I would know what to do! This is why I recommend it to you and your family members: to make you feel safe, self confident in case of need and prevent you from situations when you were unprepared to respond and especially their outcomes and YOUR FEELINGS afterwards.

Normally, first aid courses provide, among others, information regarding:

  • Preparation for an emergency response
  • Local system of Emergency Medical Service – how it works
  • The 3CCheck, Call, Care
  • ABCAirway Emergency, Breathing, Circulation Emergencies (including CPR for all ages)
  • Respiratory and Cardiac Arrest
  • Wound Care
  • Head & Spine Injuries
  • Bone, Muscle & Joint Injuries
  • Heat-related & cold-related emergencies
  • Poisonings

Your best role as a First Aider is to focus on the 3Cs:

  • Check: Recognize the emergency
  • Call: Call the emergency line (please note that different countries have different numbers)
  • Care: Act according to your skills, knowledge and comfort level


What is an emergency?

  • An illness or condition that needs immediate medical attention (e.g. a heart attack).
  • An injury, i.e. a damage of the body caused by an external force.

If you are not sure if the situation can be considered an emergency, call the Emergency Medical Service (EMS) and let professionals decide. They will ask you information about the location of the emergency, your phone number, your name, the exact situation, number of people involved and their condition.
The third point in the list of the First Aiders role is hands-on described in a professional First Aid course.

ABC: 1:53 min


CPR: 4:46 min


Choking: 1:08 min


Minor wounds: 1:21 min


As I am not (yet) certified to teach First Aid, I will only provide you with some easy principles, as a short introduction, and some advice, applicable in your daily life.
A responsible adult is always prepared for emergencies at home:

  • Post the numbers of the police, fire department, EMS, poison control center near every phone
  • Teach children how to call for help
  • Install and regularly test smoke and carbon monoxide detectors
  • Learn and practice first aid skills such as CPR
  • Make sure your home or apartment number is easy to see
  • Wear a medical identification product if you have e.g. seizures, diabetes, heart disease, allergies
  • Keep an up-to-date first aid kit at home, in the car and at your workplace

An example of a first aid kit for the car:

  • A battery powered radio and flashlight with extra batteries
  • A blanket
  • Booster cables
  • A fire extinguisher
  • A medical first aid kit
  • Bottled water and non-perishable high-energy foods
  • Maps of the area
  • A shovel
  • Flares
  • A tire repair kit
  • Matches and a durable candle

Medical first aid kit

In closing, here are some random stories that I would love to share with you, because of their message and their sometimes funny aspect, hidden underneath the worrisome one.

True story #1: While alone at home, two brothers started a fire. Not knowing what to do, they posted the emergency on Facebook, asking for help. Luckily, someone called 911 in time and the incident had no severe consequences.
Message: Teach your children how to act in case of emergencies! Even if they do not receive a first aid course, let them know what an emergency is and advise them to call 911. It’s for their own good.

True story #2: A group of teenagers gathered to consume drugs. One of them, a girl, overdosed and fell into a coma. Being afraid of the consequences, they decided not to call for help, but to wait until she woke up. She never got up.  
Message: Advocate for the introduction of first aid courses in schools. Insist that your children correctly assess a case of emergency and instill in them a sense of responsibility (of course, another message would be related to staying away from drugs, but this is not my focus today).

True story #3: A friend of mine was robbed and the attacker punched her in the nose. She was lying on the street and held her hand with a tissue over her bleeding nose. A passerby not only failed to render assistance, but said: “could you remove your hand from your nose? I want to take a picture of you”. Probably to post it on the internet.
Message: No comment.

True story #4: One of the best gifts I have ever received was an emergency kit, from the one and only… George, my husband. It was an outdoors emergency kit , ingeniously reduced to an Altoids mints metal box (4x8x2cm). It contains:

  • 2  adhesive bandages (Urgo-like, for wounds, blisters, etc)
  • 2 butterfly closures (bandages for cuts)
  • 1 antiseptic towelette (disinfectant)
  • 1 moist towelette (for cleaning hands and face without water)
  • 4 Aquatabs (tablets to purify water – 1 tablet for 1L water)
  • A 4*8cm2 device with a small saw, a can opener, a claw and some other things I don’t know
  • A cutting blade
  • 2 needles & 1 nail (used for sewing, making holes)
  • 1 roll of floss (very resistant, can be used as a fishing line, wound closing, sewing clothes, building a shelter)
  • Superglue (can be used for repairs or for open wounds, ‘bonds skin instantly’)
  • 1 20*20cm2 aluminum sheet (water and wind proof, retains heat very well, possibly used to make a pot out of it and boil water in it)
  • 3 matches with a striker, 2 candles & 1 small lighter
  • Pills (1 aspirin, 1 ibuprofen, 1pill for stomach aches)
  • 1 pack of polysporin (antiseptic ointment)
  • A device used for light signals (a light-stick that glows when struck sharply against a solid object)
  • 1 small fishing kit (complemented by a branch)
  • 1 tampon (used for bandages as it absorbes liquids very well)
  • 1 condom (to be used as a water container: ~1L of water)

Emergency kit in an Altoids box

Message: Although the gift’s purpose was more to impress me (which it certainly did), than for actual use, this ingenious kit is proof that anyone can carry a small first aid kit in his or her bag or pocket. Furthermore, one can be creative when an emergency occurs, by using a bottle of water (to clean a wound), a hair elastic or anything to tie (to stop the bleeding), a plastic bag (to avoid transmission of diseases), etc.
Trust me, I am one of the less handy and far from being a hot shot at practical stuff. First aid just requires presence of mind, intuition, a little self confidence and courage and SOME SIMPLE RULES, easy to remember and to follow.

As Rotarians, our desire and proclaimed purpose is to help others and to make a contribution to the safety, health and improvement of our societies. Being certified first aiders is for sure one way of fulfilling our Rotarian responsibility. You wouldn’t want to act like this (start watching at 1:32):

Mr Bean-CPR: 6:02 min


Credits: “First Aid and CPR Manual – A practical resource for work and home” (Canadian Red Cross)


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