The Old Sea Dog’s Gear Locker [34]

By Norm Sanders

The OSD’s mind has been occupied with medical topics recently, having just paid a rare visit to a GP regarding his sea-kayak damaged knee. He was going to devote this column, as usual, to gear, in this case a kayaking first aid kit. Then it hit him. Knowledge is far more important than gear! This should be obvious. Gear in itself can’t be used without knowledge. In fact, with knowledge, the gear may not even be needed.

In this case, the knowledge comes from taking a First Aid Course. TheOSD took his first course in the 1950’s when he was working as a professional ski patrolman at Squaw Valley, Mammoth and Alta. At that time, some of the first aid texts still showed the favoured technique for resuscitation of an earlier time: Put the water-logged victim face down over a barrel (where would you find a barrel THESE days?) and rock him/her back and forth. Now, of course, we have CPR. CPR isn’t hard, but it takes knowledge.

So where does the knowledge come from? A First Aid Course, that’s where. The Yellow Pages are full of course providers. The OSD recently had to renew his qualifications for his Sea Kayak Instructor’s Certificate. He contacted the NSW Ambulance Service in Moruya and they put him in touch with a course being run locally by ambulance officers under the auspices of Parasol EMT, a Canberra outfit. The course cost $80, took a weekend, provided a textbook and was very good. Other good courses are run by St. Johns, the Red Cross, and some surf life saving clubs.

The first thing they stressed was to “Have a go!” The text said, “Many unnecessary deaths and chronic injuries have been caused by bystanders or relatives not knowing what to do, or being too timid to try.” Knowledge, again.

The OSD does have a first aid kit, which he carries in a dry bag while kayaking, anywhere, and in his car when on land. It is very simple, and subject to change upon receipt of suggestions. It contains: A space blanket, for treatment of shock, an old-fashioned triangular bandage, two elastic roller bandages, one heavy crepe bandage (for sprains, etc.), a 10 cm by 10 cm dressing, a 20 cm by 30 cm combine pad, 20 waterproof band aids, 50 Panadol tablets (in a film container), a roll of waterproof adhesive tape, one pair of “Uncle Bill’s Sliver Gripper” tweezers, one needle, one pair of small stainless steel scissors, 15 ml Betadine antiseptic liquid, a small bottle of tea tree oil for insect bites, etc., AND a small container of Tiger Balm.

So far, all he has had occasion to use was the Tiger Balm and the tea tree oil, but you never know.

The first aid kit is obviously limited. However, it is often possible to improvise with bits of clothing and other equipment when the need arises. The most important thing, as they say, is to have the knowledge and have a go.

Healthy Paddling.