Recently, I completed a First Aid course with the Red Cross in Funchal. These evening courses, totalling 12 hours (cost 90€), are in Portuguese and follow European regulation; therefore, if I were to give first aid to a person in another country during a holiday, I would be treating the case just like the first aiders there.
Saving the life of a person can be a messy business, but it is our ethical obligation to assist a sick person in danger of losing his/her life. The least you can do is call 112 (this number is to be called for ALL emergencies, NOT the Bombeiros), and those individuals who are qualified First Aiders, are requested to attend the incident; who following a strict procedure, stabilize the victim until professional help arrives.
Our instructor trained us again and again on the steps to take, in which order and how to give compressions when a victim is unresponsive and doesn’t breathe. Heart compressions, done correctly, keep the blood circulating through the body so that vital functions are kept up until the “Socorristas” arrive. The current guideline for resuscitation has changed, and it is now 30 compressions and two breaths.
The course also included the use of a defibrillator, which again increases the chance of survival and improves the odds of less damage later. Defibrillators – with a cost of at least 1200€ – can now be found more and more in public buildings and shopping centres. Usually, the Security guard in a shopping centre is also trained to use the machine; he/she may, however, be too scared to use it when needed, so it’s up to other bystanders to apply the electrodes. The machines guide the user through the process in Portuguese (the content is the same in any language), but in a situation under duress, it is good to have training on the application.
By the way: if relatives are stating that the victim has a Living Will and ask to leave the victim alone and without resuscitation, we must disregard this request. After all, it may not be true… It is only the doctors in the Hospital who have access to the National Database where a Living Will is registered.
So, in order to be prepared with any eventuality, I have bought a red box which now contains a professional breathing mask for reanimation. My case also includes gloves, a pair of scissors to cut up clothing, and a shaving blade for men (the electrodes must be glued to clean skin). This box now lives permanently in my handbag.