Last weekend I did a first aid course for the first time in about eight years.
The previous few had resulted in hyperventilating and near fainting once the instructor started to wax lyrical about fractures, crush injuries and on one occasion a bleeding nose, clots and all, that just wouldn’t stop. I get that for the instructor, all of that stuff is just part of the day to day grind and that there is a fascination for many people in gory details, but I am not one of them. The nosebleed anecdote was interrupted by me lying on the floor at the back of the classroom with my legs raised to stop me dropping off into lala land. Embarrassing and unpleasant, to say the least. And irritating for the instructor, although I did provide a real life first aid situation that most of my fellow participants will remember well.
Needless to say, I approached the latest first aid course with some trepidation. I’d managed to practise avoidance for quite some time and wasn’t sure that facing my fears head on was the best option. However, for a couple of reasons I actually needed to get my first aid certificate and so, despite the likelihood of making a fool of myself and keeling over, I made myself go along.
I am very glad that I did.
This time was different. I did warn the instructor at the beginning that I was useless with blood and guts and that he had a potential patient on his hands and, God bless him, he restricted his stories accordingly and warned me when photos were going to be a bit nasty. And, I did do the course with a bunch of fellow Playcentre parents who were all very kind and caring and who I knew would look after me if I started going a bit floopy. But it wasn’t either of those things that made it different.
From the moment that we started talking about scenarios requiring first aid, I started to get the horrors about all of the potential disasters that could strike in my wee family. Every child that we talked about became one of my children, every man my husband. Crouching over the child CPR dummy, I had to reject the thought that this could be one of my daughters. The baby dummy was almost enough to bring me to tears when we practised treating choking through back blows and chest thrusts – imagine having to do that in real life to my gorgeous boy! The man who perished trying to save someone from poisonous gas looked too much like my husband who would be the first to rush in if presented with a similar situation. (And yes, it was real life dash cam footage of the man dying which I think is horrendous for lots of different reasons but that’s a post for another day).
As the day moved on, rather than feeling faint or nauseated, I felt an increasing sense of dread and doom. I found myself saying little prayers in my head that I would never need to use any of the knowledge and skills that I was gaining while sitting in that room. I hadn’t done a first aid course as a mother before, and my perspective had completely changed. There are completely different kinds of horrors once you’re a mother and tales of bleeding noses (even those that last several days and require blood transfusions) just don’t rate in comparison. By the end of the day I was a certified first aider and I was completely exhausted.
And then I saw Omran Daqneesh on my FB newsfeed. The boy who has (hopefully) brought the world’s attention back to the conflict and suffering in Syria, affected me in a different way. I imagined being his mother and being completely unable to do anything to anything to really make things better for him. Helpless. I imagined having a little boy who was hurt, bleeding, and yet so numb and bewildered that he did not cry, did not call for me, did not reach to someone for a cuddle. I imagined having a family discharged from hospital but having no home to return to and nowhere safe to go. I imagined not being able to take my boy in my arms and promise him that it was over and now everything would be alright. Helpless. Is there anything worse as a parent? I’m not sure that there is.
I am lucky to live in a place where the chances of my children suffering an injury or illness that requires me to use my first aid training are relatively low. With children, there’s always a chance, and accidents happen, but it’s a chance rather than a likelihood and I am very grateful for that. But, if the worse did happen and my child needed first aid, I don’t want to be helpless. I want to be prepared. And so now, instead of focussing on the horror of one of my loved ones being badly hurt or desperately ill, I’m going to focus on how lucky I am to have been given even a little bit of preparation so that if I needed to do something, I could. So that I could look back and say that I had done everything that I possibly could.