One of the scariest things you can be a part of is a true family emergency situation. I have been a paramedic for three years, and still emergency situations can get the best of me. I often have to step back and realize how chaotic and terrifying the situation must be for the family members who are, 9 times out of 10, completely unprepared and uneducated in regard to emergency care and medicine.
I will be the first to admit that emergencies can be very scary. I am trained for emergency medical scenarios and they still get my adrenaline pumping no matter how prepared I am. Funny thing is, the real trick to handling a medical emergency is to stay calm, cool and collected, but this only comes with being prepared and practiced. These tips will help in controlling a crisis situation and save you time in an emergency.
- Be prepared: Medical emergencies are terrifying when you ARE prepared, so you can imagine how scared and helpless you would feel if you were completely unprepared to react. In an emergency what usually happens is adrenaline starts pumping, your mind goes into fight or flight mode and thinking clearly can become very difficult. The best way to lessen the effect of this fight or flight reaction in an emergency is to have a plan. And in order to have a plan, you need to have a basic understanding of the core emergencies that you may have to deal with while caring for an individual. These problems include heart attacks, strokes, diabetic emergencies, cardiac arrest, choking and, the biggie, FALLS! These situations are all manageable, but it’s so important to be able to recognize the emergency and have a basic understanding of the treatment process for the patient. All of the necessary skills are covered in any American Heart Association CPR and first aid class, but if you go to the Red Cross they charge a lot and don’t really offer a great deal of hands-on practice. Your best bet is to find a small agency in your area that is certified by the American Heart Association to teach CPR. There are plenty of these agencies out there, and rarely do they charge more than $50 for a class. This class should include basic assessment techniques and treatment plans for all of the above scenarios—exactly what you need.
- Act: In a lot of these situations you’re truly going to need to know how to perform certain techniques if you’re going to save someone. You can call 911, but in a situation like choking or cardiac arrest, you are literally your patient’s only hope. 911 EMS responders often respond in about 8 minutes, and that’s an average response time. If a loved one is choking or is in cardiac arrest they do not have 8 minutes, they have about 3 to 5 minutes, so you must act. Performing CPR or the Heimlich maneuver is quite scary, and most people do not have the confidence to take action and that’s exactly why it’s so important to be prepared. When dealing with elderly adults, these emergencies are often inevitable—they can and will happen to most of us eventually. So if you’re caring for someone, try your best to learn proper treatments so that when the time comes, you have the confidence to act. There are easy life-saving techniques for all of the above scenarios that will truly change the outcome of a patient’s emergency. Make sure that when the time comes for you to act you are educated and confident about what needs to be done.
- Practice: You can go to a CPR or first aid course, or even take a free online CPR course, but if you don’t practice, the skills and assessment techniques can easily go in one ear and out the other. It’s important to review proper techniques and test yourself once in a while. Taking the time to prepare yourself and your family for these emergency situations can and will pay off. We owe it to ourselves and the people were looking after to be able to recognize a problem, act by calling 911 and perform basic treatment.
Jonathan Koenig is a paramedic in Sacramento, CA, and current registered nursing student, who teaches CPR and advanced lifesaving techniques to medical professionals.