One Solid Punch

Back to it. Thirty chest compressions and two ventilations. We learned if a defibrillator is handy – use it. If there’s an oxygen tank around; that’s good too. There was no doubt our day with Eaon was spent focusing on keeping a person alive.

I’ve done this course before – about twenty years ago. It felt like it was all about the recovery position then. This time, the recovery position was relegated to the closet. Thank god. I got so confused. Arms, legs, the left ones and the right ones and rolling them all over – while hoping the patient hadn’t broken their back – this sent me into a mess.

Luckily, Eaon didn’t do the recovery position much in his work in the special forces in Africa – I think.

‘I’d rather keep a closer eye on them if they’re not responsive,’ he mused, ‘I’m more interested in keeping them alive.’ Amen to that.

In this vein, all the other parts of first aid response were touched upon, but boy did we practise those compressions and ventilations. On grown-ups and babies. And the mannequins all had battery-operated lights to tell us if we were doing a good enough job. Not too fast or hard, not hard enough.

In between, Eaon told us that he once did CPR for thirty minutes to keep someone’s blood circulating with enough oxygen to keep them alive. Enough to bring on serious hand cramps. Just kidding.

‘Did they make it?’

He nodded. ‘EMS eventually turned up with an AED to re-start their heart. In these circumstances you can’t fault a defibrillator.’

Now it was my time to nod – a little uneasily though. I’d heard of a few boats like ours who carry defibrillators. I’d even heard one story of a yachtie having a heart attack and a defibrillator saving him onboard.

They’re just so damn expensive. I quickly looked at Amazon when Eaon went downstairs for more batteries. Around about £1000. You’ll never regret the money if it saves a person – but still: a thousand pounds!

I messaged my friend. She’s a nurse. Asked if she had one onboard.

She wrote back. ‘Just give them a solid punch in the chest.’

Wtf? Obviously I didn’t relay this back to Eaon. I wasn’t sure it’d go down so well in the middle of his course. Later, after Lulu had answered all the hard questions and we’d completed the quiz, said goodbye to his pool, fridge and excellent WiFi, I whipped my phone out and wrote back to my friend. ‘Explain the punching!’

Now, she’s not advocating it as an actual AED replacement. She made that clear. I just love it that people with solid medical and clinical experience have techniques which aren’t always, well, course content. It makes it even better. This is about keeping someone alive. The distillation of skills into what can actually work.

My friend explained she and another person once used it to keep a cardiac arrest patient alive – when there was no defibrillator available. One big thump into the sternum. It worked. But of course she said that an AED is better.

I’m just stuck on that punch.

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