This is going to be a bit of a different post. Since I try to be a responsible and decent person, the few times I have come across people who were in desperate need for immediate help I have tried to act. Most people don’t, and that is something that should change. I will give you three scenarios, and my views on what should be done.
1. Someone passes out
You may on occasion have someone you know, or a stranger pass out in front of you. One minute they are talking, and suddenly (somtimes after saying : I don’t feel so good) they’ll just pass out. What do you do?
First, its important to figure out if the person has hurt him- or herself while passing out. My dad, a couple of years back, was talking to my mom. Suddenly he said he felt a bit woozy, and he felt his blood-pressure falling. Two seconds later he passed out, and fell like a log, with a large thud face first into the kitchen floor. As I ran out from my room (due to the thud) I tried to figure out what had happened. Luckily, my mother is rather calm, so she told me he had just passed out. She was busy standing next to him and addressing him in a loud voice.
My dad is fortunately not a very tall man (although a couple of inches taller than me), so he doesn’t have that far to the floor. But falling on your face is never nice, and while avoiding any broken nose, he got a pretty good nosebleed. Since he was passed out when I arrived, I rolled him over on the side to easier see if he was breathing. Since he was, the immediate horror was over. I tried to put a sweater under his head so he didn’t lie with his face flat on the floor, and then started softly shaking him. I did not immediately run to call an ambulance, since my mother told me he had juts finished telling her how he hadn’t eaten all day and was feeling pretty weak.
After a couple of minutes, my dad came to. Now, it’s important to remember that a person who has just hit the floor will be quite surprised when he wakes up. Since my dads blood pressure fell rapidly, he passed out before he hit the floor, and thus had no idea why he was lying there. It took a few minutes of calm explaining to get him to understand that he had fell face first, which was further corroborated by the fact that his nose was bleeding a bit. My mom and I quickly demanded that he sit down and have something to eat and drink. Since he is a bit stubborn, he tried to refuse, upon which I explained that it would be in his best interest to do as we said, because he had just hit his head on the floor and might not be thinking completely clear. He agreed, reluctantly.
2. Someone is severly intoxicated
Since its still popular among the younger people to binge-drink ( I did it too), sometimes you may come across a person who is in a half-awake state, and so intoxicated that they can barely answer questions. They will likely be sitting on the ground or leaning against a bench or something similar, usually in what looks like a very uncomfortable position. Since they are only half conscious, it is usually hard to figure out what they have digested. What to do?
First, try to talk to the person. If they just respond with random mutterings or incomprehensible garble, you will have to try and figure out what to do without their assistance. I once saw a girl, who sort of slowly made her way to the ground, first she was sitting on a bench, then she tried to stand up but her legs wouldn’t really support her, so she kneeled, and then she slowly fell over and lied down on the ground. People around her did what people usually do, namely take two steps back. As a circle emerged around her, and no one knew what to do, I stepped up. Usually when you do this, one or two other people will also step forward to help.
The girl was conscious, but not making any sense. She was a bit aggrevated when we tried to help ur up into a sitting position, but being very weak and helpless she didn’t put up a fight. We tried to carefully ask her if she had taken any drugs or if it was just alcohol, but she just shook her head and stared at nothing. We decided it was appropriate to call an ambulance, because we didn’t know how to help her or what had happened to her. The biggest risk was that she would try to get up and fall in front of a car, or simply pass out and stop breathing. Now, ambulances can take a while to arrive. During this period, it is best to focus on this person not accidentally hurting themselves. Do NOT try and force them to do anything they do not want. If they want to try and get up and walk, let them do so while asking if it wouldnt be better and sit down and wait for paramedics. At the same time, be prepared to catch him/her if they stumble and fall. Luckily, its fairly easy to keep a person in this state occupied by slowly talking to them, asking what has happened and so on. Since they usually have a hard time communicating, this conversation will probably last until the paramedics arrive. If the person seems scared, or starts crying, try to carefully calm him/her down. Tell them it will be OK and that you are there to help. Explain that you called an ambulance because you thought they were hurt and needed hospital care. Usually, they will not argue. When the paramedics finally arrive, tell them calmly the outline of the situation. Usually they’ll ask if they need additional info. As the paramedics take over, you and anyone else who helped out can take a step back and calm down. Usually, one feels a bit worn out after such an episode, since you go into high-preparedness mode, and adrenaline and other substances have been rushing through your body while you were trying to figure out the situation.
3. Someone has an epileptic seizure
Unfortunately there is a lot of misinformation about epileptic seizures out there. Somehow, they tend to happen to people just as I walk by, so I’ve seen a few. It’s important to know a few things :
- A person with an epileptic seizure loses consciousness the same second the seizure starts, so they don’t feel what is happing, nor are they in pain. To them, suddenly the world stops and when they wake up they’ve had a seizure.
- An epileptic seizure cannot be stopped by physical means (holding the person down or similar). It usually ends in less than 15 seconds. While it is frightening to see someone shaking violently on the floor with all their muscles tensing up, it will soon be over.
Let’s take an example. As I was walking through the local shopping mall, I heard a loud “UGH”, and as I turned around I saw was a man falling forwards, doing a folding-knife type motion and diving straight into the ground. As I stepped over I tried to ask if there was someone there with him or if he was alone. This is important, because relatives to people who suffer from seizures usually know about it, and will often have read up on what to do. In such a case, you can leave it up to them and just stand next to them if they need a hand. Unfortunately, at this time there was a bit of confusion as to if some relative or friend was there, possibly because the person who was hadn’t seen him have a seizure before and was therefore in a bit of shock (I later figured out who it was). A couple of things are important to remember : Usually, someone will get the absolutely IDIOTIC idea that one should try to restrain him, or put something between his jaws so “he doesn’t bite his tongue off” or “he doesn’t swallow his tongue”. This is not only pointless, but also dangerous. If he had his tongue between his teeth as his seizure started, he has either already bitten it off and it has been shown that people do not swallow their tongues during seizures. Trying to shove something into someones mouth while they’re jaws are cramping together will lead to you either breaking his teeth, his jaw, or almost suffocating him. DON’T.
There is one simple thing you can do for someone who has fallen to the floor with an epileptic seizure. Take a rolled up sweater or jacket and put under their head, so they dont bounce their head directly on the floor. Usually, however, the most damage will have already been done as he or she hit the floor. Once the seizure is over, you’ll notice that the person stops twitches, the body takes a more relaxed position, and they start looking like someone who just fainted. At this point, if someone is bleeding from the head, or nose or has otherwise hurt themselves as they collapsed, you can try and help them by stopping bleeding and so on. It will usually be some time until the person wakes up again, so putting them in a forwards-lying position and putting a blanket over them is usually appropriate. If there are no relatives or friends who know exactly what to do after a seizure, call an ambulance. The person on the other end can tell you if you need to do something immediately, usually however you should just make sure that they are breathing calmly.
Let me repeat the most important piece of information : If someone decides to try and put something between a seizuring persons jaws, tell them in a rather loud voice that they may end up hurting the person badly. Explain the part about how he has either already bitten his tongue off (very unusual from what I’ve heard) or wont be doing so. If they insist, explain again that they will be hurting him and that they should stand back instead. A few more seconds of arguing and the seizure will be over.
One should try and be helpful if one cares about other people. Usually, it isn’t that hard. I’m planning to take a first aid/cpr-class up ahead, but for now the above information may come in handy. Above all, don’t lose your head, if you do let someone else take over. With relatively small means, you can make a very disturbing situation somewhat less horrifying for someone who will wake up and be very confused. If anyone out there has suffered from epileptic seizures, I would be highly interested in hearing about how it feels, to increase my understanding of it.