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Medical Emergencies – Are You Prepared to Deal With Them?

June 24, 2010 by · 2 Comments 


I think I will let this, and my next few Blogs focus on first responder emergency medial procedures and first aid supplies for camping.

You know, it is not a question of if someone in your camping party will experience a sudden illness or accident; it is a question of when.

Being prepared for such an occasion is extremely important to the long term well being of your family and fellow campers.  One of the absolute worst situations you can get into is to have someone sick or injured and not only being unsure of what to do but having a group of people around you that don’t know what to do either.

People start guessing, or telling you to do something that they think might be correct – but they are not sure.  The thought of doing more harm to an injured person comes to mind and a mild panic sets in.  You pray, My God what should I do?

Of course, calling for help is important.  But where is that help coming from and how long will it take to arrive?  After all, campgrounds are not usually located a few blocks from hospitals and other EMS facilities.

Being prepared is not just a scout motto.  It is truly a lifesaving attitude for when the inevitable happens.

Let me share a story:

We were camped at a facility on the Blue Ridge Parkway several years ago.  It was late in the day and the sun was about to set.

All of a sudden, out of no where, a woman comes running up the road screaming that her husband is dying.  She is in a total panic and has no clue what to do but run and scream.

I apprehend her and ask where?  She runs back to a campsite with me in tow.

There I find a man in his 40’s lying on the ground.  His lips are blue and he is not breathing.  A quick check confirms his heart is not beating either.  Nearby are some tools and an open generator compartment on their motor home.

I immediately start CPR.  No time for a face mask – I lay a handkerchief from my back pocket over his mouth to keep from getting splashed should he regurgitate his dinner.

I hear and feel his ribs crack as I give my first few compressions on his sternum.  Fortunately, his airway is open and his chest inflates as I breathe into his mouth.  If he lives, his ribs will heal.

CPR is difficult.  It can tire you out quickly, especially when you are doing “one man” CPR.

As I continued the process, I could see some color come back to his lips and nail beds.  I knew my CPR was working.

It was about ten minutes before a Park Ranger arrived.  Thank goodness she also knew CPR.  Together the two of us continued to work on the guy while waiting for the Rescue Squad.

Amazingly, an ambulance pulled up in just a matter of minutes.  They were returning home from a non-emergency transport to an area hospital when they got the call.  They were only a few miles away.  The two EMT’s  with the ambulance were not advanced life support certified, but they had a deliberator and cardiac drug box on board.

I instructed them to bring both to me.  Fortunately, they did not question my command and quickly complied.   They applied a respirator with oxygen while I got the equipment turned on and set-up.

A quick readout from the monitor using the deliberator paddles confirmed what I suspected.  The guy’s heart was quivering like a bowl of Jello and while CPR had kept him alive, it had not corrected the irregularity.

I shocked him with the defibrillator then ran a strip.  It took only one zap to bring him back to a normal sinus rhythm.   A few moments later he started breathing on his own.

I found a good vein and started an IV along with the needed cardiac drugs.  We put him on oxygen and transported him to the hospital.

Sounds like something you would see on a TV show, doesn’t it?  Well, it’s not.  It is an everyday occurrence.  The man had received a severe electrical shock when he did something with his generator that he had no business doing.   The shock was enough to cause ventricular fibrillation.  With no blood flowing to his brain or vital organs he stopped breathing.  He was clinically dead.  In six minutes irreversible brain damage would occur without oxygenated blood and his other vital organs would also begin to die.

Luckily, I was nearby and responded.  I have worked as an Advanced Life Support EMS volunteer for about half my life – both on an ambulance and in hospital emergency rooms.  I knew what to do and was fortunate enough to have the needed supplies arrive.

So, what would have happened if I was not there?

Well, unless someone that could perform CPR arrived within the critical six minutes after his heart stopped the man would be pushing up daisies right now.  The Ranger did not get there soon enough and no one else indicated that they knew CPR.

Now, for the rest of the story.  The guy recovered with no brain or organ damage.  A few weeks after he had fully recovered he and his wife took a CPR class.  Both of them went on to get their CPR Instructor Certification.   Together they have taught hundreds of folks, many campers, how to perform CPR.  I get a Christmas card with a note inside from them every year thanking me for the opportunity to continue their lives together.  And yes, they are still campers.

Even if I had not been there to defibrillate when the ambulance arrived, odds are he would have made it had CPR and oxygen were continued on the way to the hospital.  It is also possible for CPR to stop VF and restore a normal heart beat in healthy individuals that do not have prior heart disease or damage.

Let’s get back to reality.  Do you have CPR training?  Would you be able to sustain life until help arrived in such an emergency?  Or, are you playing the odds and hoping there will be someone else that does when an emergency occurs?

Find and enroll in a CPR class near you.

If you are a camper, take a CPR class.  Shucks, take one even if you are not a camper!  Call your American Heart Association, Red Cross or local EMS organization and ask when and where classes are taught.  The class doesn’t take long and can save the life of a loved one.  While you are at it, get a loved one to go with you.  The life they save may be yours!

Next Week – What should be in a Camping First Aid Kit.


2 Responses to “Medical Emergencies – Are You Prepared to Deal With Them?”
  1. Thank goodness you were there! I live very close to the Blue Ridge Parkway and see people up there hiking that might not have seen the woods since the 70′s. It’s scary! Red Cross Radio


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