July 27, 2009

The Paramedic's Story


The paramedic's story

The Guardian, Saturday 25 July 2009

Steve Evans has been a paramedic for 38 years with the North West Ambulance Service.

"I remember the moment I realised what a big problem underage drinking had become. It was a Friday night in Widnes and we were called out to two 11-year-old boys and a 13-year-old girl who were unconscious due to alcohol.

"If they'd all been at the same party it wouldn't have been so bad, but what frightened me was that they were all from different callouts. One had nicked the alcohol, another had got an older brother to buy it, the third had bought it from a white-van man who'd gone to France, stacked up his car with vodka, and didn't care who he sold it to.

"That was bad enough … and then, a few weeks later, I was called out to a 12-year-old lad who was unconscious in a field all on his own. Fortunately, a woman out walking her dog saw him and called for an ambulance, or he'd probably have choked on his own vomit or died of hypothermia.

"It made me realise that the problem is out of control and that kids aren't equipped for helping one another when the worst happens. So I decided to set up a campaign called Don't Walk Away. We publish posters and we put them up in places where kids will see them, and what we're telling them is not to abandon a friend who collapses because of drinking too much. What we say is: your intervention could save your mate's life.

"Alcohol abuse in the very young is a timebomb, and it's starting to go off. Alder Hey children's hospital in Liverpool runs an alcohol referral unit, and has children of 10 among its patients!

"I've got a 13-year-old son. How will I stop him drinking? Well, I don't drink myself and that's important in terms of role-modelling.

"But beyond that, I just want to demystify alcohol. I want him to realise that it can wreck your life, and I definitely don't want it to wreck his."

Advice from Paramedic Steve Evans of the NORTHWEST AMBULANCE SERVICE (NHS) (UK)

When Things Go Wrong

Sometimes a drinking session gets out of hand. Young people can become intoxicated quite quickly, even to the point of slipping into unconsciousness. Their friends may feel frightened about the situation, but there are some basic steps you should take.

Here is some first aid advice for young people. Steve says:-

1. Don't panic, the Ambulance Service is there to help you in this situation.

2. Clear the casualty's airway of vomit by finger sweeping if necessary.

3. Make sure the casualty is breathing by looking, listening and feeling for movement of the chest or abdomen, if they are not breathing then you need to do mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

4. If the casualty is breathing then you need to clear the area of broken glass so that you do not roll them on to it.

5. Having done this you need to roll the casualty into the recovery position, that is on to their side so that they can still breathe. If you roll them right over then they will not be able to breathe properly, as their own body weight will stop them from breathing.

6. This is the time to send or phone for the Ambulance by dialling 999, giving the exact location of the casualty. It will help the Ambulance crew if you send somebody to meet them and guide them to the casualty.

7. You should try and keep the casualty warm as a side effect of too much alcohol is hypothermia.

8. Keep checking that the casualty has a clear airway and is still breathing properly until the Ambulance arrives.

By following these simple steps you may save the life of a friend. Do not worry about getting into trouble by getting involved, because we are more interested in saving lives than telling people off.

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