Ralf Kircher, Emergency Responder
Bokeelia, Florida, USA
Emergency Responder Ralf Kircher was only weeks out of his refresher course in Phuket, Thailand when the December 2004 tsunami hit. After narrowly surviving
the first onslaught he made his way to a nearby hilltop resort that had become a makeshift hospital. Many of the most severely injured had been treated by the time he arrived but as he was near the pool he overheard a woman talking to a man who appeared to be sleeping. She was asking if the man was all right but was getting
no response. Then, as Kircher says, "That was when I was amazed at my Emergency First Response training kicking in. Whenever I watched those videos, I was like everyone else who watches them: They just seemed stupid and unrealistic. But damned if they don't get it into you what you're supposed to do." After introducing himself and taking the man's vital signs, Kircher found a translator who could speak
Dutch with the man and nominated someone to find emergency vehicles. Speaking through an interpreter, Kircher was able to obtain information regarding the man's medical history - and indeed confirm his suspicion that the man was having a heart problem when he found his patient had recently had open heart surgery.
An Australian doctor arrived in the midst of their survey and Kircher passed along his information. The group was able to get the man on the back of a vehicle that was willing to risk the drive to the hospital, through the devastated area and one that was at risk of another wave. Following the event, Kircher had this to say, "I don't know what happened to that man, but I do know that my Emergency First Response training - as silly as
some of the videos were and as rudimentary as it seemed when I was taking the course - taught me exactly what to do, and it stayed with me while I was doing it. I'd also like to thank my instructor, Hamish Thorpe of Southeast Asia Liveaboards."
EFRA Responder: Claudine Boucher of Quebec Canada
Course Completed: 12 June 2004
Date of Incident: 16 November 2004
Location: Road 235
I was on my way to work when I saw, some distance down the road, a red pickup truck passing a large semi-trailer truck. All of a sudden, I saw a big cloud of dust rising higher than the telephone poles. I hurried over to the scene of the accident having realized that it was the pickup truck that had went down the ditch.
There were already four other people on the scene, including two women in a state of shock. I asked someone to call for an ambulance. Then I asked if there was someone in the truck but one of the women pointed out to an unconscious man who had been ejected out of the vehicle and was lying with his head downwards and his face on the ground. I froze for a moment, and then she said "He's dead!" I snapped out of it and replied " No he's not dead!". I jumped into the ditch towards the body and said, "No, he's not dead, we must first check if he's breathing" and then she said, "Yeah, we should check to see if he's got a pulse."
When I reached the victim, I realized that his whole body was shaking. In the posture he was in, I realized that I was far from the Emergency First Response classes where the pseudo victim is laying neatly on its back, immobile... I put one of my hands on his belly to try to assess his breathing but my hand was shaking so much that I couldn't be sure. I put my other hand on his back I became more relaxed and then he started breathing. At the same time, the other women, who had been feeling his pulse said, He's got a pulse! For now, he had a pulse and he was breathing but the way his body was laying, we couldn't leave him like that while waiting for the ambulance to arrive. The victim started to gasp for air and was choking. I didn't like the fact that he had such a hard time breathing.
All the onlookers were telling me not to touch him or turn him but my gut feeling told me that if I would leave him face down, he would choke to death and I would have to perform CPR. I felt it would be better if I'd turn him around to let him breathe more easily. I took the decision to turn him around but his body was covered in blood and I didn't have any gloves. I looked up to heaven and said "I want to help him but I hope he doesn't have AIDS!" The woman wanted to turn him right away but I told her that we must be careful with his head and his spine. I aligned his legs with his spine and asked for help from the onlookers so that we could turn him slowly and cautiously. Once he was turned over, I put his arms along his sides and covered him up with his jacket. His eyes were filled with blood; he was bleeding from one ear and from his mouth, which was why he had trouble breathing originally. I stayed by his side until the ambulance arrived. Although his pulse and breathing where fine, he didn't respond to questioning. I even squeezed his hand to see if I would get a response, but didn't.
At about that time, a work colleague of mine who had also taken an EFR course helped me and the paramedics to get the victim into the ambulance. I told one of the paramedics that I had turned the victim and he said that it was fine, that I had done well. I then tried to calm down one of the women who was crying. I told her that she should talk about the accident to other people and not keep it bottled-up inside, to even seek professional help should she have trouble coping with the stress.
Needless to say, I got in late for work, but I explained to my bosses that I had been on the scene of an accident, and that I had put to use the skills that I had learned at the EFR class that they had paid for just a few weeks before.
I was of course very stressed out over the next few days and wanted to know whether the man I had rescued had survived or not. A friend of mine was able to locate the victim's family and I received a phone call from his mother who told me that he was still alive and that, according to the doctors, I had made the right decision by turning him around because he would have most probably choked to death had he been left in his original position. In the following weeks, his mother would call me to give me a report on his condition and it took about three weeks for him to come out of out of his coma. On December 25th, she called me again and told me that her husband wanted to ask me a question. But she played a trick on me, it wasn't her husband but the accident victim himself, who spoke to me and thanked me for having saved his life. There are no words to describe the joy I felt and this is most certainly the best Christmas gift I have or will ever receive for as long as I live.
I remembered something my EFR Instructor had told me: "If you stay calm and follow your training without regard to what people around you say and create a bubble just for you and the victim, then you can help the best that you can".
I have met with my EFR Instructor, Anouar Benna´d PADI 209748, who suggested that I write this accident report so that it can help and encourage other EFR graduates.
Frank Wollrab, EFR Instructor  from Pennsylvania, was driving home from work when he came upon the scene of a traffic accident. He noticed two very badly damaged vehicles, one of which had caught on fire. He immediately pulled over and grabbed the pocket mask and barriers that he always carries in his car.
Frank was told that emergency medical services had already been called, so he did a preliminary assessment of the two victims who had been pulled from the burning car.
The driver was incoherent and struggling to breathe. He appeared to be bleeding slightly from his right arm, and possibly a broken left arm and left lower leg/ankle. Frank positioned the man on his right side, which relieved pressure on his left arm and leg and eased his strained breathing. The patient remained conscious but incoherent until emergency medical services arrived.
Frank determined that the passenger was more seriously injured. She had a noticeable compound fracture of the left leg just below the knee. (The bone had punctured her slacks and was protruding several inches). At first she was awake and cooperative. She was complaining of severe chest pain and was bleeding slightly from the back of her head. Eventually, she slipped into shock and went unconscious. Frank quickly checked for a pulse and verified that she was breathing by placing his ear just above her mouth. She regained consciousness but was struggling to breathe, so Frank gently moved her jaw to open the airway. She expressed relief that she could breathe easier.
Finally, emergency medical services personnel arrive. Frank gave them the status of the patients and assisted as necessary until the Emergency Medical Technicians were in complete control of the scene. The victims were flown by helicopter to a medical center in Pennsylvania.
Frank then stepped back to look over the scene to reflect on what happened. The accident appeared to be a head on collision. Car parts, gas and oil were scattered all around. Frank says his training just seemed to kick in, without him really thinking about it. The most disappointing aspect for Frank was the fact that many cars drove by the scene, but only three people stopped to help.
Frank says he learned these lessons from the experience:
1. Don't be afraid to stop and help.
2. Keep mask and barriers handy.
3. Don't worry about doing the right thing-the training kicks in automatically. You CAN do it.
4. Carry a blanket, pillow and fire extinguisher in your car.
5. Be prepared. You will have an emotional reaction to the experience.
Douglas J. Mc Lean - EFR Provider, St.Thomas,
Douglas Mc Lean, a sailing instructor at St. Thomas' Yacht Club, came to a friend's assistance during a meal. While telling a story, his friend began choking. Mc Lean asked him if he was okay. His friend shook his head that he was not. Mc Lean then asked him if he could breathe. When the friend again shook his head no, Mc Lean asked if he could perform an abdominal thrust. After receiving permission to do so, he performed the maneuver and the food was dislodged.
Greg Wharram EFR Instructor 614615, Gauteng,
Greg Wharram and Fernando Neto came across a serious traffic accident on a highway, in which two cars collided head-on at high speed. The drivers of both cars involved in the accident were trapped in the vehicles. Fernando and Greg responded with oxygen and a first aid kit. After prioritizing patients they began treatment of the two most seriously injured. They provided care until emergency personnel arrived about 20 minutes later. The pair assisted the emergency personnel, and then saw the patients on their way to the hospital.
When asked if he would do the same again, Wharram responds that he would. "We don't choose to be a victim, but we can choose to be a Samaritan."
Russel Vann, EFR Provider from Northhampton, Great Britain, comments on his new-found confidence to offer care after taking an EFR course. Russel went to the aid of a motorcyclist who hit a fence near his home. "I actually remembered back to the classroom exercises and thought that I ought to see if I could help. I ascertained that the motorcycle was not leaking fuel, made the rider and others put out their cigarettes, spoke to the rider to make sure he did not need emergency care, and then made sure that someone would be with him once he had been taken home. I got all the right signs and signals, his father was picking him up, he had no headache or blurred vision, there were no impact injuries or broken skin. I then went on to tell him to get to the hospital if he had any headache, blurred vision, or vomited. I then left the scene as all appeared well and he was being cared for. He ended up with some bruising and a very bent motorcycle.
I can hear you ask, 'why is this guy telling me all this?' Before attending the course, I would never have had the confidence to attend to someone injured or who I thought might be injured. Whilst I did nothing to improve the person's recovery or save his life, I made sure that I did what I could to help. ..without the knowledge [I learned on the course], I certainly would not have had the confidence."
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