The Art of Self-Reliance

The Art of Self-Reliance

No man who is not willing to help himself has any right to apply to his friends, or to the gods.-
Demosthenes

I teach occasionally. The first thing I start with when I teach any first aid or CPR courses is explaining how important it is for everyone to be self-reliant. At least to a degree.

Now let me explain, I’m not talking about having 6 months worth of food in a bomb proof underground bunker (if I could afford it I might consider it) what I’m talking is about being self-reliant with the basics of survival. I’m talking about everyone knowing basic CPR, yes the no breaths version is perfectly fine. Everyone should know the basics of the Heimlich maneuver. Everyone, and I mean everyone, from Elementary school to adults should know the basics of controlling a bleed.

I have been called to assaults where a small laceration to the temple area have made people look like they were shot with a 50 cal just because no one on scene decided to apply pressure. The times that a tourniquet needs to be used on an artery or venous bleed are far less common and so I don’t consider them extreme necessities but they do occur and I don’t understand why people wouldn’t want to have this skill. It’s one of those skills that I would rather have and never need than need one day and not have.

What about anaphylactic reactions? Come on people, every day there are more and more people having allergic reactions to a wider and wider range of items. Learning simple symptoms can save someone’s life. Learning the difference between an allergic reaction and an anaphylactic reaction could give a person a fighting chance. I’m not talking about the technical terms either, just know if someone is showing a lot of itching, trouble breathing, hives, swelling or a sudden case of wheezing they are having an anaphylactic reaction. Knowing that over the counter Benadryl (diphenhydramine) can help but is not the definitive treatment if it’s a true anaphylactic reaction is also crucial.

Or what about this one, get called out to a residence for possible MI, because the person has left sided paralysis and they’ve already administered aspirin. Knowing the difference between a heart attack and a stroke is pretty extreme. Even so I see many people mistake the two. Know that weakness to one side of the body, facial drooping and slurred speech is a sign of a stroke and remembering that the time of onset of the symptoms is vital to a possible recovery. A heart attack usually presents with pain to the chest radiating somewhere and does not improve with breathing or position of the body. Both have time fighting against them, but each has their own treatment protocols. Aspirin should not be given to a possible stroke patient under any circumstances unless a physician is ordering it for that specific patient.

Another common problem is dehydration and heat related emergencies. Just because young kids have tons of energy and are able to run around like if they’re never going to run out of steam doesn’t mean parents should let them. Knowing that dehydration is something easier prevented than dealt with once you are having symptoms is important. Once someone that is dehydrated begins to vomit it is going to get more difficult to get him hydrated. If, however, parents, coaches and trainers can remember to keep everyone hydrated during exercise, sports events or just a hot day out in the park you can avoid any problems. What if the kid doesn’t want to drink water during play? Make it mandatory in order for them to continue to play.

The main thing about being self-reliant is also knowing when you are reaching your limit. I have touched a few times on the misuse of the 911 system and in the future will be trying to look at that issue further, for now however, I am going to say that while self-reliance has it’s purpose there is also a limit. Everyone needs to know that there are certain things that we are going to need help with, such as a real injury, an ongoing stroke, an active heart attack, and a thousand other things that should prompt us to call the emergency number. No one should ever wait to see if the left sided paralysis they are feeling is going to wear off. No one should see if that chest pain that is causing them to have shortness of breath and dizziness will be helped by an Rolaid.

It’s crazy that sometimes the people that least need an ambulance call for one and the patients that should have called wait until hours if not days later to call?

Self-reliance, at least to a moderate degree, should be something all of us strive for. We never know when it might come in handy.

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