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Learn first aid!

Posted by on 21/02/2014

On my way into Barbacena today I saw a man get badly hit by a car – I was 50m away cycling up a hill and as I glanced ahead I heard a crunch and literally saw a pair of feet spin up in the air. I assume he went over the roof of the car but in that split second I don’t know exactly what happened, though I think the guy walked out from behind a parked car straight in front of the moving car that was accelerating up the hill.

I was cycling towards this accident so was quickly nearby and saw the man’s body laying prostrate in the road. In those few seconds my brain was flooded with shock, horror and suddenly a stream of jumbled memories from the Red Cross First Aid session that I attended in London before coming to Brazil.

The man’s two companions were stood with hands on heads just frozen, maybe thinking he was already dead. The car that hit him had stopped a little further up the road. Basically there was no-one there trying to help the victim, so I had to do something, an f-ing terrifying realisation as I jumped off my bike and ran over, whilst at the same time shouting/signalling to people nearby to call an ambulance and looking to see how much blood there was and thinking should I use my cycling jersey to apply pressure to the wound? But thankfully bleeding wasn’t a big problem, so as I knelt down next to the man I remembered to first check if he was breathing and/or conscious – thank goodness he was in fact breathing but certainly wasn’t conscious, but I knew from the training that breathing meant he was alive and that was what I had to preserve, so regardless of any other injuries I had to get him on his side with his airways clear, especially as I could see there was blood and other fluid in his mouth. So I rolled him into the best recovery position I could, propping up his back with my knee, and tried to rest his head so that he wouldn’t choke. His body was fighting hard to breathe so I began to pat him on the back in the hope it would help to clear his airways, but had a horrible fear that any second he might just stop breathing and then what, would I have to try chest compressions? But he clung on despite making some bad noises, however his friend appeared a few times and began to push hard on the victim’s stomach and I had to move him away as surely that wasn’t helping and also who knows what internal injuries he may have had.

At this point another guy had knelt down by the guy’s head and seemed calm as if we had the situation under some kind of control, maybe he was a medic?? But he wasn’t actually doing anything so I just wanted the ambulance to arrive very soon. Then a military police car pulled up and two officers got out, but also proceeded to do nothing! WTF?! Eventually one of them gave a rubber glove to the possible medic and he opened the victim’s mouth to clear more fluid, which seemed a good move and I was just glad that someone else was tying to help.

Eventually at long last the ambulance arrived so I moved away back to my bike, and then the shock hit me of what I’d just seen and done, so I was shaking and also realised there was now a big crowd of concerned locals gathered around the scene. The ambulance crew got the victim onto a stretcher and into the vehicle, nothing more I could do so I just wanted to leave and so pushed my bike up the road through the crowd and static traffic, then got on and cycled away.

I’ve really got no idea if what I did made any difference to the victim’s chances of survival, or even if my actions were technically correct, but at least I had some basic knowledge to try and apply in a positive way, so I’m very glad that I attended that first aid course. I encourage you to do the same ASAP.

And for the avoidance of doubt, this was just an accident, as unfortunately happens all over the world every day, and it in no way proves many peoples’ theory that “Brazil is dangerous”. It was bad luck, a moment of carelessness by someone crossing the road. This experience won’t affect my plans, I’ve still had no problems myself on the trip so far, and I’ll certainly cycle onwards tomorrow.

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