What would you do if you found somebody unconscious in the forest?
On 7th April, at a large Orienteering Event in Highland Perthshire (JK), I thought my biggest challenge would be improving the pace at which I could accurately complete my course. However, about 15 minutes into my run a much greater challenge came into view. Two other orienteers had just found a young competitor lying unconscious on the forest floor.
They quickly established she had no obvious signs of injury and got her lying flat. I joined them and we could see she was not moving or responding. She was very pale and had no pulse. I shouted and shook her shoulders but there was no change so I whacked her in the centre of her chest with my fist. What a relief to see an instant twitch of her lips and a flush of pink, then more movement as if she was waking up from a sleep. My arms relaxed; I’d been ready to start CPR to the rhythm of ‘Stayin’ Alive’.
Another orienteer saw us and offered help, running back to the start to alert the helpers and activate the First Aid team. A doctor teammate of the others stopped too. We were now chatting to our ‘patient’. After some time with ongoing attention, warm clothes, water, jelly beans and a space blanket, she was able to walk safely to the waiting Red Cross 4x4. During that time I lost track of the number of runners that asked if we needed extra help.
In times when the media can seem full of bad news, we got a Good News story with a happy ending. People worry about what they would do if they found somebody in need of Basic Life Support. It could happen at any time. For me, this story shows the importance of individuals being prepared to stop, assess the situation, ask for help and have a go. It also highlights the importance of event organisers making effective First Aid provision, as they did excellently in Perthshire. Thirdly, the charities and organisations that do so much to promote CPR skills run courses and campaigns; think of the Vinnie Jones TV advert, and read more about it on the British Heart Foundation website.
In a forest up a track in the highlands, people stopped, had a go and made a difference. You could too.
Caroline Hornby (Moravian Orienteers)
aka Dr Pears