SidebarStocking a first aid kit
May 29, 2008
When I was in college, I fulfilled my meager physical education requirement by taking a course in first aid, for which I received Red Cross certification in first aid and adult/child CPR. The class hasn’t crossed my mind much through the years, except for two instances in which it came in handy in critical situations.
Three summers ago, my family and I were walking toward our car in a nearly empty parking lot in a small town in Canada. My husband was several strides ahead of me with our two boys and I was holding my daughter’s hand, strolling slowly. As we passed a grandmother and granddaughter standing aside their truck, the door hanging open, I noticed something amiss.
The blonde girl, maybe 11 or 12, was retching, but she wasn’t throwing up. Her face was bright red. The grandmother was patting her back softly. I asked if she was okay, and there was panic in the woman’s voice as she answered, “No, she’s choking — on a hard candy.”
I asked permission to give her the Heimlich maneuver and moved in back of the girl, telling her that this may hurt but it will help. Someone nearby said they would call an ambulance.
I believe that God is in the details: I don’t know how else the human brain recalls the minutiae of where to place your hands and pull in and up while staying calm during a crisis when you’re sure that in another minute this girl will pass out and quite possibly die. On the third in-and-up thrust, she started to throw up — and we all breathed again.
Not knowing I was in the middle of becoming a hero, my husband, aware of my affinity for making friends with any stranger anywhere, called out to me at that moment from over the cars, “Could you have your conversation another time? The baby’s already strapped in.” Coming, hon.
Flash forward to March of this year. I was a volunteer lunch-server at Solomon Schechter Day School of Essex and Union’s Lower School in West Orange. I was walking toward my eight-year-old son when, a couple steps away from him, my path was unexpectedly blocked and I almost tripped over one of his friends, who had stood up suddenly and was coughing — or trying to. He looked at me and said, “I can’t breathe,” which meant he could, but just barely.
I remember the details of the parking lot incident much more clearly than what happened next, but the first time it was not a child I knew and cared about. I turned him around and whacked his back but realizing that it wouldn’t be effective, I shook off that thought and started to do the Heimlich, telling an approaching teacher to get the school nurse. After a couple of thrusts I was panicky because he wasn’t ejecting the offending piece of bagel, but he did seem to be breathing better and went off to see the nurse with a teacher.
My adrenaline was rushing through me so that I was shaking and wanted to cry, even though I knew he was okay. My faith in the seemingly opposed ideas of free will and fate was strengthened; I hadn’t wanted to go to Schechter that morning, thinking of the errands and housework I had laid out that day.
I don’t lay this out in public to garner any credit for myself — I was in the right place at the right time and had the skills to help — but in the hope that it will inspire others to train to save a life, although I hope you never have to.
Saving life is paramount in Judaism: Shabbat and holy day laws can be broken to do so. But you have to know how to be able to help. Would you know what to do if you passed someone who was choking? If the answer if not a firm yes, take a first aid or CPR training class. It only takes a few hours, and the information and techniques you learn will last you the rest of your life. Many organizations offer them including many JCCs and Y’s, and your local Red Cross office. Someone may thank you for it someday.
Alia Ramer is a copy editor for the NJ Jewish News who secretly panics every time her children eat popcorn, carrots, or hard candy.
According to the NYC Fire Department web page, the following items should be staples in any well-stocked first aid kit:
• Acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and aspirin, for headaches, pain, fever, and simple sprains or strains.
• Ipecac syrup and activated charcoal, for treatment after ingestion of certain poisons. Use only on advice of a poison control center or the emergency department.
• Ace bandages, for wrist, ankle, knee, and elbow injuries
• Triangular bandages, for making an arm sling
• Scissors with rounded tips
• Adhesive tape, two- and four-inch gauze, for dressing wounds
• Disposable instant ice bags
• Bandages of assorted sizes
• Antibiotic ointment
• Bandage Closures, for taping cut edges together
• Tweezers: To remove small splinters and ticks
• Safety pins: To fasten bandages
• Rubber gloves: to protect yourself and reduce the risk of infection when treating open wounds.
• First Aid manual
• List of emergency telephone numbers.
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