Why first aid knowledge is important – you never know when you’ll need it

I’ve been trying to write other posts, but then I keep coming back to this one. I think it’s the most important thing I have to say at the moment, but it won’t be the easiest post to write.

My experience with first aid training hasn’t been good. We got the chance to do an introduction to first aid when I was at school as some kind of extra curricular activity.

It was led by an external provider who had clearly never come across a visually impaired person before. That’s fair enough. To be honest we got on fine until it came time for the test. I passed mine, both the theory and the practical parts, but he said I couldn’t get the certificate for course completion because I wouldn’t be able to safely assess an emergency situation independently.

There are definitely things it would be harder for me to do, and things that I do differently. Perhaps I wouldn’t be able to become a first aider at work because of issues around risk assessment and insurance, but certainly anyone I’ve patched up or helped in the past wasn’t bothered that I couldn’t see them. Most people are able to explain what happened and most things aren’t that serious.

To be honest, I wouldn’t have been bothered, apart from the fact that a boy in the group was given his theory test back to “have another look at it” because some of his answers were wrong and he wouldn’t pass. I hated the trainer at that point – how could he make such a fuss about my not being able to do things if he was willing to so openly let another course member cheat like that?

I didn’t pursue it. Partly because you have to choose your battles and at that time I was having bigger problems elsewhere. Also I didn’t think the certificate was worth the paper it was written on if it were so easy to get it dishonestly. Now I would be more likely to keep searching until I found an accessible alternative as I know that some visually impaired people have had really good experiences.

What I did do was get myself a book on first aid. A big thick manual that went into fa more detail than the introductory course. I read it, and in the end could be sure that I knew far more about the subject than anyone who had passed that stupid course!

First aid training has to be refreshed though, and I didn’t do that. Still, a fair bit had stayed with me and it came in useful nearly two weeks ago when I became unwell and we spent the night in A&E.

I don’t really want to talk about the details here. I’m still processing it myself and it was a big thing for me even to tell my friends about it. I don’t find it easy to be open at the best of times when something is wrong.

I feel much better now and am undergoing treatment and having some tests. Maybe I’ll write about it some time, but that time isn’t now.

The point is that I remembered what I’d read about first aid, what the problem might be, and what we should do about it. S hadn’t had any first aid training, but he’d also picked up some information from a film or tv programme and we pretty much came to the same conclusion about what the symptoms meant. We’re both pretty calm in a crisis and quickly decided to go to the hospital.

So the point of writing this is to say it’s better to have some basic knowledge in advance than to be frantically googling if something happens. You can save yourself time and stress. Even if what happens isn’t exactly like what it says in the book, you’ll have a better idea of what to do, what to look out for, and if you go to the hospital or call an ambulance, what information is going to be relevant.

The NHS has lots of useful information or you could look into the availability of courses in your area.

It’s also helpful if you can do some basic things to be ready if there’s an emergency. I wrote last year about hunting around for painkillers after my accident, and how it would have been better to have known where they were immediately. The same goes for the first aid kit – a basic one doesn’t cost very much and it’s good to have it around if you need it. Also, if you keep raiding it, replace what you’ve taken.

If there’s an emergency, you should call the emergency services, but if you spend any amount of time on your own long-term or temporarily, is there someone close by that you can call in an emergency? I have someone who has offered that I can call them any time if there’s a problem when S is away, and this has given me peace of mind.

Hopefully I won’t have to do it, but it’s reassuring to know the offer is there. I’ve dealt with floods, collapsing ceilings, and sprained knees in the middle of the night on my own before – partly because I’m stubborn, but partly because I didn’t want to bother anyone at that time. If you have the conversation in advance, you don’t have to think about who might be willing to help. Similarly, is there someone whom you could be there for in this way?

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