First Aid for Future Good Samaritans
You’ve probably heard the story of the Good Samaritan. I only remember it roughly myself, having discussed it years ago in a class that I vividly recall having spent the majority of the time watching squirrels outside of the classroom window. I remember the squirrels because I followed their activities closely in most of my classes..Anyway, what I am trying to say is that I only remember a bit of the story, and the details are a bit sketchy but I’ll try to explain either way.
The story is about a man who is beaten and robbed on a dangerous stretch of road and left to die of his wounds. A priest and a religious man both walk by the man and choose to ignore his cries for help. A third man, who in the story had many excuses to ignore the man (different religious views/different tribe/philosophical conflicts…sound familiar??) stopped and treated the man’s wounds, took him to an inn, and paid the bills until the man was well again. As I am a sceptical person, I have many questions as to what the man was doing alone on a dangerous road in the first place. He must’ve had a good reason, dying grandmother, sick friend, chasing a squirrel..but the point is that someone cared enough to stop and help.
You’re probably thinking that I told that story because I helped save someone’s life or something equally as heroic. I didn’t. I don’t even like that story. But when I was recently asked to design a series of First Aid Lessons for adult students living in the slum areas of Bombolulu, the story sprang to mind. I work in a hospital back at home, and have participated in many of these courses and the least I could do was share my knowledge if a group of people was willing to sit and listen to me drone. I especially wanted to help because without a little bit of first aid training, had any of my adult students been the Good Samaritan, the poor robbery victim’s wounds would have turned septic or he would have had more than one limb amputated. Seriously, they probably would have caused more harm than good. Let me explain..
I spent a few weeks designing a very basic first aid course, (it really shouldn’t have taken so long, damn those pesky squirrels!) to be covered across four one-hour sessions and began teaching it on Tuesday afternoons, a time I normally dedicate to resting (squirrel chasing is exhausting). I was well-aware beforehand that the adults I would be teaching would have very minimal (if any) education behind them, and so I had my expectations set accordingly. Yet, I was still surprised.
Of a group of around 15-20 students, only a handful knew that you should clean a cut with anti-septic, or soapy water (or at the very least clean water) before you cover it. Of this handful, none of them knew exactly why this was important. It was just something they’d picked up from somewhere. One young woman managed to tell me that it was important to try get any mud out of the wound, but when I asked why they thought that this was a good thing to do, they had no idea. One afternoon, a rather elderly and normally reserved gentleman politely informed me that, rather than run a burn under cold water, you should immediately cut off the affected skin with a sharp knife (although presumably not necessarily a clean one.) Whilst another woman fiercely contended that a bruise was a sign that you had sinned and was God’s punishment, before greeting any of my (numerous) attempts to convince her otherwise.
Having been a volunteer and a staff member at two schools In Mombasa, I have witnessed my fair share of poorly treated wounds on my students. Parents who had the best of intentions to help their child heal made a few critical errors and ended up making the situation worse. Returning to the story of the good squirrel, I mean Samaritan, imagine that, instead of cleaning the dying man’s wounds, the Good Samaritan had, with the best intentions, said something like,
“Oh dear! You appear to be in some very serious trouble my friend! But not to worry, I’m here to help! That looks like quite a serious cut on your leg, so sit tight, I’ll just grab my axe and we’ll whip that leg off in no time!”
In this case, like the parents of my students, the Good Samaritan has done what he thought was right in order to help someone in need, but has ended up hurting the very person he wanted to help. This is because, whilst good intentions are all well and good, sometimes you need the skills to back up your intentions to really make a positive difference. Without these skills, good intentions can backfire.
The first aid course that I put together was as interactive as I felt I could realistically make it. If I were to simply stand at the front of the class and tell them that everything they believe is wrong, they wouldn’t pay the slightest bit of attention to me. And if the situation was reversed, nor would I. But by getting them to practice applying a dressing, cleaning a wound, doing the Heimlich manoeuvre or putting them in the recovery position, they can then see the effects for themselves. They can appreciate that what this strange, white, Western (yet startlingly good-looking) boy is saying actually does make sense.
The course covers the following areas; Cuts and injuries, infections, bites, burns, bone and joint damage, bruising, choking, breathing and heart problems, wound management, and emergency situations. Each of these are things that they had little awareness of at the start of the course, but I am confident that they now have enough knowledge so that, if they were ever to encounter someone suffering from one of these problems (perhaps at the side of a lonely and dangerous road) they would be capable of providing at least some assistance until more highly-trained support arrived. They could be the Good Samaritan.. In short, I’m confident that none of them would be whipping out their axe.
I feel that I should end with some sort of squirrel joke, but I think that would just drive you nuts.
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