Save a Choking Dinner Guest!
You’ve grilled a killer steak, and you’re sitting down to chow when one of your mates starts choking. Is it your secret sauce… or is it a medical emergency?
BE A HERO “If he starts gagging immediately after he takes a bite, there’s probably something blocking his airway,” says emergency physician Frohlauber. You need to step in – otherwise he could choke to death. Hold his mouth open, and press his cheeks against his teeth so that he doesn’t bite down as you stick your finger into his mouth and dig out whatever’s stuck in there. If that doesn’t work, perform the Heimlich Manoeuvre:
1) Stand behind the person who’s
choking and bring your arms
around their body.
2) Clench one hand into a fist, and press it into their stomach, just below the sternum (or “chest bone”, if you flunked biology).
3) “Place your other hand on top of your fist and pull in sharply, two or three times, upwards and inwards,” says Frohlauber. This should dislodge the blockage.
“If the Heimlich doesn’t work,” says Frohlauber, “then move on to mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. That’ll help, even if it just gets some air into the patient’s lungs.” Call an ambulance, and keep the resuscitation going until help arrives. Oh, and in future make sure your dinner guests take small bites and chew their food.
Some punk grabs a lady’s cellphone and starts to run. She’s screaming and everybody else is standing still. Should you give chase?
BE A HERO After him! “If you catch the culprit in the act, you’re legally allowed to pursue him – and even detain him until the police arrive,” explains police officer Janine Binder. Make sure you get a good look at him, and take note of any distinguishing features, like height, approximate age, hair colour, visible scars and tattoos. These will make you a key witness when it comes to the prosecution.
So go ahead: chase him down… but don’t be stupid. “Pickpockets will often carry a weapon,” says Binder, so rather follow the thief from a safe distance, call the cops, and let them take care of business. “If the thief leads you down a dark alley or quiet street, don’t follow,” advises Binder. Rather wait for the cops, make yourself the star witness, and be the hero who steals the lady’s heart (and lives to tell the tale).
Father-In-Law’s Heart Attack!
You’re meeting her parents for the first time, and when her dad hears you’re a Chiefs fan, he suddenly clutches his chest. The old man’s having a heart attack – and only you can save him.
BE A HERO “If a man complains about a sudden, severe pain directly behind his breastbone, that’s a classic sign of a heart attack,” says emergency physician Dr Friedrich Frohlauber. Calm the old guy down, and help him lie down so that his upper body is extended slightly. If he’s passed out, lay him down in the recovery position and monitor his pulse. Call an ambulance.
“If there is no pulse at the wrist or neck, you should immediately begin CPR,” says Frohlauber. The correct pressure point for a heart massage is in the centre of the chest. Maintain a frequency of 100 repetitions per minute. (Need a point of reference? That’s 100bpm… or the same rhythm as “Stayin’ Alive” by the Bee Gees). After 30 compressions, apply two mouth-to-mouth ventilations. Check every minute or two to see if the pulse has returned, and keep going until the ambulance arrives.
a Cat From
The old lady next door stands before you with tears in her eyes, pointing her walker towards the towering oak tree. You hear a plaintive miaow. Can you save the kitty?
BE A HERO Wait a second. “Ever seen a dead cat in a tree?” asks fire chief Niessen. “Ninety-nine percent of the time, the cat will climb back down on its own.” So before you start climbing, try to lure the cat down with some treats. If the animal is stuck (like, really stuck), you’ll have to take action.
Get a ladder, plus someone to keep it in place (preferably at a 70-degree angle of approach). “Clench your fist and hold it up against the side of your head,” says Niessen. “Now stand with your feet touching the base of the ladder. If your elbow touches a rung of the ladder, you’ve got the correct angle.”
If the ladder is wobbly, the cat is well and truly wedged in, and the branches of the tree look like they won’t hold your weight… phone the fire department. Remember, cats have nine lives. You’ve just got the one.
Foil a Suicide Attempt!
A depressed colleague is standing on the roof of your office building, looking down into the depths below. Will he jump… or can you talk him out of it?
BE A HERO “Your top priority right now is to stay calm,” says behavioural psychologist Jens Walkowiak. Talk to the guy, and build up a rapport. “A conversation should help calm him down emotionally, reducing the chances of an irrational act.”
But avoid pointless platitudes like, “Hey, man, it’s not so bad, you’ll be okay…”. All that does is show that you don’t understand their situation. “Rather ask him what you can do to help,” says Walkowiak. If he tells you to go away (or words to that effect), then leave and call the police.
And take care of yourself, warns Walkowiak: “Someone who’s attempting an aggressive suicide – like jumping off a bridge or a building, for example – can very quickly direct their aggression towards someone who’s trying to intervene.”
Rescue People From a Burning Building!
Is somebody having a braai… or is the neighbour’s house on fire? Here’s what you need to know before you brave the blaze.
BE A HERO First, know the dangers. “In situations like these, the most common cause of death is smoke inhalation, which makes you lose consciousness after a few breaths,” says Jörg Niessen, a fire chief in Cologne, Germany. A common cause of domestic fire-related fatalities is people inhaling smoke and suffocating in their sleep. “That’s why fires can be so deadly at night,” says Niessen. So your main task is to wake the residents and help them escape the flames.
If you’re in a multi-storey building, stick to stairways and don’t use the lifts (the fire might damage power cables, leaving you trapped inside). And don’t go around opening doors. If a closed door is hot to the touch, there may well be a fire on the other side, which will expand explosively when you let in the fresh oxygen.
“If you walk into a smoke-filled room, you’re probably not coming out alive,” says Niessen. If you’re in a room that’s filled with smoke, crawl along the floor and keep your head down. Poisonous carbon monoxide rises, so stay as low to the ground as possible. “If you can’t orient yourself, just follow the wall on your right-hand side and you’ll find the exit,” says Niessen.
Help a Pregnant Woman Give Birth!
You’re nowhere near the hospital, the doula is stuck in traffic, and there’s not a midwife in sight. But she’s going to give birth anyway… and she’s going to do it now. Are you ready to play doctor for real?
BE A HERO First step: ask her if her water has broken. “If it hasn’t, you still have enough time to wait for an ambulance to arrive,” says Frohlauber. If it has, ask her if she’s given birth before. “If it’s a first birth, you’ll usually have enough time to wait for medical assistance,” says Frohlauber, adding that first childbirths tend to last the longest.
Not her first? Then it’s game time. Get her to sit down, breathing sharply in and out, just like she learned in prenatal classes. When the contractions are less than a minute apart, the birth will begin. “Let her lie down, slide a pillow or a jacket under her, and make sure she pants when she breathes,” says Frohlauber. “Then let nature take its course. Childbirth is a natural process, not a disease.”
When the baby comes into the world, check that it’s breathing. “If not, hold it upside-down by both legs, and pat it gently on the back,” says Frohlauber. Then stroke gently downwards on the baby’s nose to expel excess fluids. Don’t cut the umbilical cord (rather wait for the pros to take care of that). Place the child on the mother’s chest to keep it warm, and go get yourself a stiff drink.
By Franz Gunter