First Aid in the Field … on the Beach, in the Bush [72]

By Dee Ratcliffe

What are the first two things that should come to hand when you open your first aid kit? What is the best way to get consent from a casualty? When and how does a casualty give implied consent for a first aider to get to work? What is it about triangular bandages that means having too many is never enough?

Thirteen club members recently spent a Saturday, Sunday and following Saturday on a Remote Area First Aid course run by club member Bruce McNaughton. Bruce is an accredited St John Ambulance and Ski Patrol first aid trainer. Was it worth it? Giving up three days to learn something I’d hope never to put into practice? Well simply YES.

We covered so many things that could (and do) happen on many of our trips … bites, stings, burns, wounds, hypothermia … The scenarios were many and varied … What’s the first priority? How would you prioritise multiple casualties? Whose gear should you use — yours or theirs? What about knocked out teeth? Cut off fingers? Snake bites? Punctured lungs? Flail chests? How do we care for the non-injured, the carers?

CPR formats changed a year or so ago — do you know the new drills? Have you practised them? Over and over? Moments of silliness resulted in Bruce adding another five minutes to our team (three-person) CPR drills. I’ve done CPR training at work, but never for as long a time as this. Like rolling, the more you do this, the more the actions are embedded in the mind and to muscle memory.

Ever thought of the many and varied uses for your Nalgene bottle and Sea to Summit kitchen sink? Think about the injured or sick casualty confined to their tent, think about Bruce telling us we need to measure and record inputs and outputs …

You should have seen and heard the “ohhs” and “a-hahs” as Bruce demonstrated the versatility of a SAM splint. The protocols for setting up a helicopter landing area and being ready for its arrival were explained.

The whole class went silent and reflective as we talked through Death in the Field. Not pleasant, terribly serious, but possible. It had crossed my mind given the scenarios we were considering. It has hung there over many a kayaking tale, this spectre in the background. It was acknowledged and talked through. Enough. Move on.

As with most aspects of kayaking, preparation and prevention were constant themes from Bruce. Who are we paddling with? What are their medical needs? Do we know where asthmatics keep their puffers? Their spare puffers? Where do paddlers with anaphylaxis have their EpiPens? Who has a first aid kit? Where is it stored in the kayak? What gear do we each have — communications gear? Camping gear? Cooking gear? Our regular kayaking and camping gear can be adapted to become splints and stretchers. On any trip, what communications do we have if an emergency evacuation is needed?

My first aid kit is now due for a major overhaul. I’ll be adding more gloves, the bandages that came as part of the course material, a face shield, duct tape, Glad wrap, digital thermometer, square of plastic/alfoil, a notebook and pen, saline, a SAM splint, the scissors and compression bandage Bruce showed us. Bruce stressed that each of us needs to decide on the contents of our own first aid kit; there is no “one size fits all” solution.

Phew! It was an exhausting, demanding course covering lots of ground. Bruce worked hard to keep us all alert, active and attentive, reinforcing key points over and over. “Breathing and bleeding”, “pack in position of most comfort”, “head to toe assessment”. Then there were all the acronyms … HARM, PER, RICE, SAMPLE, DRABCD, OPQRST … designed to help us retain and use all this information, but sometimes causing me confusion.

Bruce has a cool head, a great sense of humour and a wealth of knowledge. He put us through scenarios, questioning us …. “How would …?” and “What about …?’ and “Why …?” His constant message and reassurance about putting our first aid training into practice was that we’d never get it Perfect to the Letter but at least we can try and do our very best with what we have.

Eric, Mike, Gregg, John, Terry, Sue, Paul, Adrian, David, Kate, Lee and James …. I’d paddle with any of you and know that I’m in safe hands.

NOTE: I’ve never done Senior First Aid training so a lot of the course content was new to me. This course will give us our Senior First Aid Certificate (WorkCover-approved) with an added Remote Area First Aid qualification.

Next time Bruce offers this training to the club — make it a priority! Attend!

Calling emergency services

Call 000 for an ambulance. If using a mobile phone and 000 does not work, try 112.
Australian First Aid, St John

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