Don’t panic!

I spent yesterday bathed in the milk of human kindness after dipping in and out of Bernadette Russell’s good deed diary for most of the day. Her altruism must be rubbing off because I’m seriously thinking about doing a first aid course. I’ve been nudged into action by the British Red Cross who are promoting their one day first aid courses this week but really it’s my own inability to cope in a crisis which is spurring me on.

Anyone who’s been in my company for more than 20 minutes will have heard this story, but it really illustrates how little most of us know about how to cope in a crisis and how important it is to be either trained in first aid or within a mile of an A&E department (and preferably both).

It’s another baby Ella story, I’m afraid, but they have a limited shelf life – she’ll discover the link to the Candis website any day now and I’ll be one kid short of a blog from then on.

So are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin.

Once upon a time, on a dark and stormy February day, back in the days when mobile phones were the size of Mars bars and kept for emergencies only, I was driving home from a friend’s house with two-year-old Ella wrapped up against the freezing temperatures in a fleecy snowsuit and her six-week-old sister Cleo dozing away in her bucket seat in the front.

Ella had been in a cranky mood so my friend had given her a mini box of raisins to cheer her up. We were halfway home with the heater on full blast when I began hearing what I thought were choking sounds from the back seat. I stopped the car right in the middle of the road and pulled the back door open to find Ella lolling like a rag doll and apparently unconscious. My mind told me she had probably choked on a raisin, but I had no idea what to do. I tried to use the mobile phone but I had used it so rarely I couldn’t even tell if it was on.

So I did what all good mothers do in the movies – I panicked and stood in the middle of the road flagging down cars. Three or four drivers swerved past me before one car, and our hero, pulled over. Simon (for that was his name) bundled Ella and me into the front seat of his car, passed Cleo, bucket seat and all, to his then eight-year-old son on the back seat, and drove us like a bat out of hell to the A&E at the Whittington Hospital (now about to be closed down).

He drove with one hand and dialled 999 with the other to let them know we were on our way (I know, I know – he could have caused a pile-up but it was an emergency). We screeched into the ambulance bay and Ella was in a nurse’s arms in seconds and as right as rain within the hour. She hadn’t choked on a raisin, she’d had a febrile convulsion, brought on by having a bit of a temperature (hence the crankiness) that, combined with being wrapped up in a snowsuit inside a hot car, had caused her to overheat and fit. All she needed was a bit of medical expertise and some paracetamol.

Had I had some first aid training things might have turned out differently – I wouldn’t have gained ten years in an afternoon and almost caused a mass pile-up. On the downside, we would never have met Simon and his family, who remain some of our closest friends almost 17 years later.

These days we’ve stopped worrying about overheating or choking babies, but other worries have replaced them – at some point one of them is bound to fall off their bike, have one shandy too many or grab the wrong end of a sparkler – and I’d like to be able to do something to help, not fainting in the corner adding one more to the casualty list…

Have you ever coped in a crisis? If so, how? I’d love to hear your stories.

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