Editorial: Do you know what to do if faced with medical emergency?

Editorial: Do you know what to do if faced with medical emergency?

Would you even know that they needed help?

Would you know what to do?

Medical emergencies can strike in the most unlikely of places, to people you didn’t think were particularly susceptible. Often they require a timely response to avert serious consequences or even death.

How would you respond if you were faced with someone in a medical emergency? Would you even know that they needed help?

These questions were brought to mind by a situation in the Cowichan Valley late in January. A man and his wife took a hike on Cobble Hill Mountain, and he became dizzy. He insisted he just needed to sit for a few minutes and he would be fine. His wife took him at his word, and he refused help from passersby.

Fortunately, one of them recognized the situation for what it was — potentially serious — and ignored the man’s protestations and refusal of help and took charge.

But how many of us would know when it’s necessary to do something like that? Colleen O’Dell, our good Samaritan, just happened to be a respiratory therapist who works at Cowichan District Hospital. As such, one would imagine her ability to gauge the seriousness of the situation was somewhat more informed than most people’s. But how many people have any idea at all how to assess something like that?

The man, Ian Rogers, had a major heart attack as the ambulance was driving him to hospital in Victoria. If he hadn’t been under medical care, he quite likely would not have survived. If he had still been sitting on the side of Cobble Hill Mountain he would likely be dead.

Would you have stopped and asked if he was OK? If he told you “yes”, would you have gone on your way without a backward glance? Often people experiencing a medical emergency are not thinking clearly and will insist they are fine. Do you know how to tell if you should take charge and call 911?

Wouldn’t you like to know what to do? It could be a stranger, but it could also be a friend or family member in need. Feeling helpless and uncertain is both unpleasant and unhelpful.

Our advice is for everyone to take at least a basic first aid course. You can even get them free of charge from time to time. And if in doubt, call 911 and have them send an ambulance. It’s far preferable for them to come out and find out that the person in question is OK than it is not to call and have someone die or suffer life-altering trauma.

Better safe than sorry.