Aid First?

I apologise in advance for the first section of this post.

On a busy motorway a small black high performance car drew the attention of police officers parked on an observation platform. Officers began to follow but the driver of the car was aware, increased speed and began to make off. The car had a head-start on the officers and drove somewhat recklessly to advance well ahead of them. Leaving the motorway it joined a dual carriageway and continued to flee. The officers were no longer in sight of the vehicle and at least a mile behind it.

Meanwhile the vehicle was approaching traffic lights on red with a build up of traffic. Just before the lights there was a break in the central reservation to allow a right turn into a small housing area. In order to avoid the queue the vehicle swerved through the gap and continued toward the main junction on the wrong side of the road. A pedestrian crossing at the junction stepped off the central verge and began to cross. He knew the road well and that as a dual carriageway the traffic would all come from his left. He never looked right. This poor young man had his life stripped from him seconds later. The car failed to stop and to my knowledge the driver was never found.

Paramedics were called and more police made the scene. I was one of those patrols attending. On arrival I found the paramedics attempting resuscitation. This poor young man was a mess. The worst I had ever seen. There were no two ways about it; he was dead. The technician was rapidly deploying a stretcher but whilst he did the paramedic applied compressions to his chest. Bodily fluids ejected from his nose, mouth and ears with each compression. It was an awful sight. A small crowd had gathered and were watching. With as much dignity as could be mustered the young man was extracted to the ambulance where he was simply covered over.

Some weeks later I spent a few hours in the company of the ambulance crew to take statements. They described the mans injuries as “incompatible with life”. I asked them why when he was in such a state did they even try CPR. The answer was one of public perception. They noted a crowd had gathered and ambulance crews are often criticised by an untrained public if they are ostensibly seen to do nothing. As such, futile as it was, they attempted CPR until the injured party was out of sight of the public.

Today whilst sat in the coffee shop at Sainsbury’s I felt a sharp pain on my thumb. A bit like a pin being stuck in me. I had no warning and wondered what on earth it was but as my thumb started to swell a little I knew I had been stung. I thought little of it, despatched to wasp heaven the nearest one I could see on the window and continued my coffee. Approximately 10 mins later a young boy of about 7 or 8 burst into tears. He was visibly distressed and in pain. It transpired he too had been stung. The mother was on her own and didn’t know what to do. Another lady went to assist and then dashed to the counter to tell the staff. I sat on and watched as all seemed to be in hand. I was quite impressed when in a very short space of time a Sainsbury’s employee appeared. He had a headset on with a boom mic and a first aid bag slung over his shoulder.

He met the lady and engaged in conversation. I returned to my coffee but kept glancing over and then heard him say “I’ll stay with the boy”. What happened next infuriated me beyond belief. The staff member sat with the boy whilst he sent mum into the store to buy something from the pharmacy. I was appalled.

Mum duly returned with a little Sainsbury’s bag with some cream. The “first aider” then left. I sat and chunnered about this to a friend and then almost blew a gasket at what happened next. The Sainsbury’s first aider had returned and was filling out a form and getting mum to sign it. What for? To confirm and validate he had done “bugger all?”

Is this what society has become? I ask the question but I know the answer. Yes, it is what society has become.

We are a society that says we can’t hold the hand of the lost child in a shopping centre whilst we walk around looking for family for fear of accusations of attempting to abduct them. We are the society that crosses to the other side of the road when someone is in trouble on our side. We are the society that steps over and around someone having a fit and carry on with our shopping. We are the society that insists people are trained in first aid but then don’t actually want them to use it and sue them when they do.

How back to front are we? I feel for ambulance crews around the country. Highly trained yet open to litigation at every job. Yet they face the same lose/lose situation that I do as a first aider. I’m trained and have a duty of care. If I do nothing I’ll be in trouble for not acting. If I do something to the best of my ability and it’s not good enough I’m in trouble.

I grew up with a maxim. “Better to have tried and failed than never to have tried at all.” I try to continue with this now. Maybe some of the medical litigators and those families who choose to bring actions in the name of compensation need to give this some serious thought.

There is a line. Trying to perform a tracheotomy with a pencil is particularly stupid. Trying to do something beyond the scope of your training is a danger area but why do businesses spend millions of pounds a year teaching people to do first aid and then have them frightened to death of using it? Why are the general public so quick to blame others for their misfortune? It may be something to do with the amount of adverts by legal companies who peddle phrases such as “where there’s blame there’s a claim”? Our greedy eyes take over and “yes I deserve compensation for this because I’m not responsible for my own misfortune” is the engendered mindset. What a crazy CRAZY situation.

What ever happened to compassion? Whatever happened to empathy? Whatever happened to caring for those around us like we would like to be cared for ourselves? Instead of inaction through fear. Instead of crossing the road or ignoring a situation step up to the mark and show your colours. Let’s give Aid First.

On days like today I really don’t like the people we have become.


13 thoughts on “Aid First?”

  1. The law of “good intention” covers first aiders, I'm an ICU nurse and I'd have a go any time if I thought it would help

  2. Please tell me police tracked down and prosecuted the driver of the small black performance car?

    We really need covertly placed high def cameras on motorways and busy roads which record vehicles AND their drivers. That we don't have such basic surveillance in this day and age is ridiculous.

    Another thing that's ridiculous is the fact that the Highways Agency cameras don't routinely record and if they do, the recordings are disposed of asap. This is stated on the Highways Agency website. How is that a good use of technology?

  3. Having worked for sainsburys in the past. The pressure that is piled on staff if they don't follow the Sainsburys way is a joke. staff are no longer allowed to have common sence. If you go off the script it goes on your records and they can use it to get rid of you. It's a shame when they put themselves ahead of staff and customers.

  4. I've often thought this. Running a hospitality business, that's been sued once & one pending. Our failing on the first was lack of health & safety docs. Now if someone's injured I make sure the accident book is filled out first, although it appals me that I have to take so many details and say 'sign here' whilst someone's fallen over etc. But being sued despite your best efforts is even worse.
    I look forward to the day when if you fall over then 99% of the time you should look where you're going. I've often thought this. Running a hospitality business, that's been sued once & one pending. Our failing on the first was lack of health & safety docs. Now if someone's injured I make sure the accident book is filled out first, although it appals me that I have to take so many details and say 'sign here' whilst someone's fallen over etc. But being sued despite your best efforts is even worse.
    I look forward to the day when if you fall over then 99% of the time you should look where you're going.

  5. Firstly, I agree with you Sarge, I think it's appalling what people report to police & refuse to assist in- I remember taking a call from a M.O.P who was with a male who had been assaulted & was collapsed but she refused to go near him to check if he was breathing 'in case something happened'. It was an incredibly frustrating situation.

    At Anon, well, the cameras can't point everywhere at once & we are one of the most closely monitored countries in the world at the moment. There's all sorts of objections to having yet more cameras, though I do think if you've nothing to hide then it shouldn't matter too much if the cameras are recording or not! They greatly assist us in our work daily.

  6. I work in a custody area in west Yorkshire with currently 61 working cells. All the police and detention officers are fully trained first aiders and as you know custody can be very challenging. We have regular self harm and suicide attempts as well as high risk detainees under the influence of drink and/or drugs. Due to the fear of suspension and prosecution we spend an inordinately large amount of our time and resources making sure no one hurts themselves. Where has personal responsibility gone. On the rare occasions a detainee does hurt themselves the investigation isn't into why they did it but, why didn't we stop them. The regular self harmers will do anything to hurt themselves and even with an officer present on constant supervision they will bite themselves or head butt the Walls or floor. We use our first aid to treat the detainee then a few weeks or even months later a letter arrives from a firm of solicitors claiming negligence in that the regular self harmer who is covered in scars and Injuries managed to hurt himself in a police cell. They know that it costs a fortune to defend these allegations and the force solicitors will pay up to save funds that are in short supply. Common sense and responsibility has been eroded from the job.

  7. As an active member of St John Ambulance, we give aid on and off duty. However, we are not insured to give meds. So we would suggest 'off the record' that someone buy anti-histamine(for instance) but are not allowed to carry it, buy it on their behalf or administer it.
    It sounds – possibly – as if this might be what your chap in Sainsbury did.
    With regard to the hit and run. I hope someone turns in the driver, or he discovers a conscience. It will not bring back the young man who lost his life this evening though. They say Prison is full of people who did something stupid and devastating on the spur of the moment. I tried to get into the Met a few years ago. It was one of the many times when there was a recruitment freeze/ bottle neck. I have friends in the job who tell me that it is often far too depressing and disheartening. Thank you for sticking with it.

  8. Many years ago I saw a woman lying on an icy pavement & people stepping over her! I went straight home (pre-mobiles) & called ambulance service to discover no report had been made. They immediately dispatched an ambulance & took the woman to hospital where she stayed 3 weeks having seriously hurt her back. If I had helped she would have been paralysed! On that basis I refuse any attempts to persuade me to join a First Aid course. I call an expert instead.

  9. As a nurse, I generally work by the “could I defend this action in court?” rule. I would not think twice about stopping to help someone, and have had to. I stopped in a less than desirable place to assist an unconscious man who slipped on ice, police passing stopped to keep us safe – the ambulance crew were slightly jaded & thought I was an interfering busybody. I put it down to tiredness – but that attitude doesn't help the public to do the right thing, they like a pat on the head. I do agree with CPR – even in ppl who won't survive. 3 reasons – 1 miracles do happen, 2 & 3 – the trauma to the family & to the public, it's easier to deal with if you feel everything was done. I know a policeman who got into a legal case for cracking someones rib during CPR. it happens & he saved a life. No thanks. I find that so sad. It came to nothing but was stressful. Why would he want to go through that again? (he would though). Another good read Sarge!

  10. Thank you all for your comments. In relation to the last. Even today with mobile phones people still choose to ignore, think someone else will do something, cross the road or walk the other way. Yet similarly there are dozens of people who are prepared to simply stand around and watch. The situation determines the action and in your case simply ensuring help was on its way ( a primary role of a first aider) and then staying with them was all that was needed.

    Have a look at this;

    Everyone of the occupants could have had stable C spine fractures and pulling them from the car could have paralysed them from the neck down but it was the right thing to do. The alternate was certain death.

    Care should always be exercised and we should never act beyond our knowledge or training but doing nothing at all is far far worse.

  11. This reminds me of a time when I was on a train going to London Charing Cross and a young woman fainted just as the doors opened. As I was the nearest I managed to stop her falling out onto the platform. What shocked me the most was that other passengers were pushing past me to get out in a hurry while I tried to summon aid. The girl revived and then found in the melee that her bag had disappeared!

    Anon writing as Walter English on twitter @rosettastone57

  12. I understand your concerns about unnecessary resuscitation. However having worked in the NHS One particular case springs to mind. I found it particularly unpleasant 'shocking' a lady about five times a day. She actually had burns from these. I repeatedly argued that what we were doing was in Human and cruel and that we should let her die a dignified death . When she put on her summer dress and shook my hand I was astonished !! Maybe we should keep trying ' just in case ' ??

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