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First aid is an essential skill

Shubhabrata Marmar  /
22 Apr 2016

Despite my academic record, I've been an enthusiastic and diligent student all my life. My teachers gave up on getting me to write to earn marks in exams but my ability to pay attention and absorb knowledge was never called into question. Turns out learning new things still excites me in the very same visceral way at forty.

I realised this at the California Superbike School as well as a student at Indimotard's TWO School which is now supported by OVERDRIVE. I now instruct at the latter.

But the three hour introduction to first aid at the Motorcycle Travellers' Meet outside Bangalore last year struck a different chord. You see, I've been very lucky. I don't fall off motorcycles a lot and I've been blessed with friends and riding buddies who don't seem to fall off much either. Good times.

But I worry about the friends I ride with. I want them to be safe. And I want them to keep me safe should that need ever arise.

MTM (2)We start by learning the basics of a head to toe examination. Shumi is stabilising the spine while his partner runs the exam during the WMI-NOLS Wilderness First Aid Course with CPR

The three-hour long course opened my eyes to how little I knew about what to do when I came upon someone who needed medical attention.

I remember when Abhay Verma did a superman off an Impulse jump and made a head first landing. He landed heavily and the groans he made immediately after, scared the living daylights out of me. Luckily, I didn't do the usual. Roll him over, yank off his helmet, slap him into consciousness... None of this. He seemed to be breathing okay and not bleeding - thanks to his motorcycle gear - so I simply waited for him to, er, wake up. It felt like hours but eventually I sent him to the emergency room after I noticed a persistent lapse of memory about the crash. He was okay.

MTM (1)Paul Holle Williams, the instructor, will demonstrate techniques and processes but the students practice every single one to ensure that the WMI-NOLS Wilderness First Aid Course with CPR course syllabus is not even remotely abstract

When my wife had her epileptic seizure, once again, I was shaking with fear but I put her into what I now know is called the recovery position and simply waited for her to regain a fragile consciousness. I don't like fear and I like to go out and find ways to deal with it.

So when Santosh, the teddy bear who runs MTM called to say he was hosting a WMI-NOLS led Wilderness First Aid (WFA) course, I signed up instantly.

The flights to Bangalore cost me Rs 7,000 and the course was Rs 13,000. I stayed with friends who fed me for free and put up with me. But it's the best Rs 20,000, I've ever spent. Because the WFA course with CPR - two and a half days - is such a basic skill set that I cannot believe it isn't taught in school to every single kid.

MTM (3)Outdoor sessions and classroom sessions make up the day at WMI-NOLS Wilderness First Aid Course with CPR. Here the students go through a review of a scenario given by Paul Holle William. Scenarios are where one team becomes patients and the other team has to figure out all the issues with the patient quickly and get help

It doesn't turn you into a doctor but it does give you the basic tools to enter a situation where someone's down and attend to them. To suss out what needs to happen next and to pass this person on to a medical professional with a clear assessment of what happened, how the person is and what you've done so far.

The WFA also challenges you into thinking with scenarios where you either play a patient or the first responder. The scary one for me was the one where I was a patient. My brief was simple. Lie down, breathe and respond to nothing. I was playing an unconscious person.

While my first responders went through the the process I had plenty of time to think about how I would react. It scared me.

MTM (4)A scenario in progress. Shumi and his partner have walked into a trekking accident and they must figure out what happened and what needs to be done next. The WMI-NOLS Wilderness First Aid Course while the CPR instructor Paul Holle William watches closely and will step in with questions and help when he spots a problem

Imagine it. Your friend falls off the bike ahead of you. You park your bike safely and run over to see what needs to be done while your other buddies - not trained in first aid - do what they can, park the bikes, direct traffic and mill about helplessly.

He's down but breathing. Phew. You run a quick heart rate and respiratory check. Seems okay. Phew. You quick run a full head to toe check with your gloved hands and find no blood. More relief. And your friend never responds. No groan, no movement. Nothing. The relief fades away. What do you do 

MTM (7)Playing patient at the WMI-NOLS Wilderness First Course with CPR is far from a sedentary process. Some of the most introspection and assimilation happens when you're the demonstrator

The right call, as my responders did immediately, is to continue to monitor after calling for help. Move the patient out of harm's way if needed, keeping rechecking heart and respiratory rates so that the doctors have a trend to work with. And then you just wait until you realise that you've never been happier to hear the cacophony of an approaching siren. And that you weren't helpless. You did everything you could and hopefully your riding buddy will be okay.

MTM (5)The last (half) day of the WMI-NOLS Wilderness First Aid Course with CPR is when the dummies come out and show their true colours

MTM (6)First Aid is serious business but the WMI-NOLS Wilderness First Aid Course with CPR does have its lighter moments. Especially when Shumi is around and he's forgotten his straight, serious face at home

I walked away on a Sunday afternoon with a certificate, a handshake and a little less fear. My friends and their lovely, lovely daughter, one of the most intelligent young women I've ever met, were going to go see Batman vs Superman in 3D. The movie was so bad I thought someone in the audience was going to pass out.

And then I smiled. I knew just what to do to help this person

Image credits: Santosh Kumar/Motorcycle Traveller's Meet and Deepak Thimmoji

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