Let’s be honest. What do you remember about First Aid from your primary school? Think about it. The truth is, everyone knows this. It’s no secret. It’s the first answer that popped up in your mind. You can’t run away from it. You know what I’m about to say. Pinch me if I’m wrong. (Insert smiley). Useless drum-roll.
It’s the Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR), the Kiss of Life.
(Catch your breath)
I loved the Kiss of Life the first time I heard of it. If I said, it was love at first sound you’d think I’m lying. You’d say my tongue deserves a pulling and burning in hot coal for spewing despicable things that bring shame to my mother. But I’m honest (I try to be). It was a thrilling set of three words. Our walkways met when I was a ten-year-old boy, I think. I was in P.5, a kid in Arua Hill Primary School.
The sun was blazing and we had lined up under a tree for lunch. It was the first year the school had started serving lunch. I didn’t need to go back home.
I lined up in my soiled khaki shorts, with my purple plastic plate in my hand, behind three P.7 boys. The line was long, with turns like the curve of a road around a hill. No one wanted to stand in the striking sun so the tree was everyone’s shade. We all fit under it. I was as hungry as can be. I had played too much during the short break and eaten nothing.
My knees were knocking on each other, my legs barely carrying me. But I couldn’t jump the queue. You didn’t mess with kids in P.7. They were the big boys, the men in school. They knew the topic of reproduction and how babies were made. Some had public hair growing in their pants. They laughed about it and ran the show in school. I so much wanted to be a P.7 kid in Arua Hill. Not for the pubic hair though. Those P.7 chaps made me want to look forward to the topic of reproduction, although it was a topic taught in P.6. I was a silently messed up kid.
In that line for food, those kids were discussing the Kiss of Life. One said, in a whisper I could barely hear but I was right there to catch it before the wind blew it up the hill, he wanted to try it on a girl (Man! Those P.7 chaps were something else). He was the boy between the boy in front of me and the one in front of him. They all laughed and I pretended I hadn’t heard it. I concealed my laughter and swallowed it down my throat. That’s how those three words got glued to my brain. Maybe I was a messed up kid too who always thought about giving someone that kiss of life. Maybe I was. I need to check in for treatment.
So when I got an email on Tuesday, with a subject line of six words, four lines of simple words in the body, I remembered those boys that I stood behind under that tree almost 17 years ago.
It was a nomination to attend a Fundamentals of First Aid and Fire Fighting and Safety training. The email carried no fluff, served as it was, straight to the point. I read it in five seconds, with my the first finger and thumb of my left arm running down my bearded cheeks and chin. It was a no brainer. I was going to be there. That I, son of Tuape, was seen fit enough to be part of a team to go pump up their skills in providing immediate care for an injured person with the hope of preserving life, preventing the worsening of a condition and promoting quick recovery (Gosh! That last part sounds like a textbook sentence) was an honor. That I should be one of the guy’s who picks the fire extinguisher in case of a blaze, squeezes the lever and sweeps the fire to death was scary.
So I joined a couple of folks for this training and sat by the window, looking at cars passing along Lumumba Avenue, drawing up simulations of what could potentially happen to motorists if they didn’t drive well. Then I’d swing into action with my first aid or firefighting and lifesaving skills, which at that time were nearly zero.
I watched a woman who wanted to jump off an incomplete high building. It probably was the 10th floor. I don’t remember. A rescue team was telling her not to do it. She was at the edge or rather, on the edge. She was determined, with her eyes shut. The firefighters were begging her not to. Some climbed the building to different floors. Others stayed down, on the ground. One climbed one floor above her. She spread out her arms, ready to fly. And she flinched. A man from up pulled himself down to the floor she was at and knocked her back, into the arms of group of other fire fighters who were waiting. She wore a red dress. That’s how she failed in her mission to jump off. She would have crashed by the time this sentence was done. She survived.
And how do you help a driver who has got an accident and his head is on the steering wheel? You don’t pull out your phone to take selfies and pictures to update your friends on WhatsApp or Facebook or Instagram. You break the window, open the door, lift his head up to open the airwaves and pull him out of danger. Selfies don’t save life. They are a self-gratifying waste of time.
If he is unconscious, lay him on his back. Call him. The brain is responsive to sound and pain, I learnt. Say Ssebo or whatever. Tell him, “Ssebo, you’re phone has been stolen.” Or tell him his wife has given birth. Do this loudly. If he does not react, press the muscles at the sides of his neck. It’s called the Trapezius muscle. It’s painful. It’ll cause the brain to flick. If this doesn’t work, then you can switch gear. Call someone nearby and tell them what is happening. Ask them to call an ambulance or an emergency medical assistance. Give the caller information to relay to the emergency response guys while, you guessed right, you head towards, you guessed right, the CPR. This requires active demonstration which I can’t do virtually. Only do the second part of the CPR, which is the Kiss of Life, if you are sure that you won’t catch an infection from the casualty. But do something.
The point is, do what you can to save life. Please, don’t be a bystander when an emergency arises. Play your part. That’s what humanity is about.
If you have space on your phone and a few mbs to spare, go to Google Play and download the First Aid in Your Pocket App. It works on IOS, Android and Windows OS. It’s by the Uganda Red Cross Society, free, with 18 (and growing) everyday scenarios you can apply first aid skills in. This will be your personal first aid tutor and the sweetest thing about it is you can use if offline.
It has tutorials, videos, words and pictures.
Download it. Then you can take your selfie.