First Aid, a Life Skill – Saving a Life on the Train

Posted by in Pensive

I choose to commute via the local train to work daily. It saves me the hassle of having to drive very far while navigating through the heavy traffic. Yesterday, as I was going to work, the train was quite crowded as usual. An old woman was travelling alone sitting by the window adjacent to me.

A few minutes after the train pulled out of the station she suddenly collapsed on the seat. I look up and the guy next to her just smiles and shrugs. I ask him and people around if she is sleeping or has suddenly collapsed. They confirm that she has suddenly collapsed. I tell him to shake her awake. She does not respond. I get up and try to shake her awake. Still no response. I open her eyes to check if they are moving. They are not. I check for a pulse on her hand and on her neck. That is impossible to gauge in a moving train. I fear the worst. I tell a bystander to put water on her face and head. To cool her down. To make her get up. Something. Anything.

The train pulls into the next station and stops. Finally, I detect a weak
pulse. I tell another bystander to help me get her back into sitting position. Tell him to put water on her head. Tell another to go look for the station guard. The train starts moving again. I frantically pull the emergency chain and stop it. I tell a woman sitting a few seats away to search this woman’s clothes for her cellphone.

The train starts again. I instruct another guy to keep pulling on the chain and keep it on the station. More splashing of water. Finally she opens her eyes a little bit. I try to talk to her. I ask her what is happening. She points to her chest. I try to reassure her and I ask her if she has some medication. She lays her hand on her bag. I open it to find a box of tablets and injections. Definitely a diabetic. I hold up tablets in front of her. She points to one. I give that to her. I try calling the last dialled on her mobile phone although she is gesturing to me not to. The line is busy. I keep trying to reassure her and keep her calm and conscious.

Finally the station officials come. We take her outside to a bench in the shade.  I tell them what happened, which tablet I gave her for the future doctor’s reference and to keep trying to call someone on her cellphone. Then when I believe the worst is over and there are other people who would take care of her, I leave.

I called up the station master after an hour to follow up on what happened. He told me that she had been taken to the hospital.

I don’t know if I saved her. I don’t know if it was as inconsequential as a mild sunstroke from which she would have recovered from on her own or a cardiac arrest I helped her through and trying to get her quick eventual quick medical assistance that might have saved her life. That is not the point. The point is that I acted.

She was alone and there was no one was coming to help her. I was the only one there instructing people what to do. Telling someone to keep pulling the emergency chain of the train, one to call the station guard, one woman to check for her phone, one guy to put water on her head all the while checking her pulse or giving her medicine or calling from her phone or something else I did in that flurry of action. No one out of the 80 odd people around me acted on their own!

After the whole incident, once the adrenaline wore down, I was initially angry that people did not help. But then when I got the chance to reflect upon it with a calm head I realized something. People did not do anything because they probably did not know what to do! I am trained in First Aid. But  ironically, I did not do any remotely complicated medical things. The training merely gave me the confidence to act rather than stand and watch helplessly at someone potentially losing their life. To take charge of the situation.

There are a few “life skills” we all should have. Swimming, driving or reading among others. These simple skills can potentially save your or someone else’s life. But a life skill which is generally quite undervalued and overlooked is knowledge of First Aid. It is as necessary as any of the above or maybe even more so. Some basic knowledge of first aid can help you save someone’s life. Not just someone’s life. Maybe your friend’s, spouse’s, parent’s, child’s, or even your own life. Not necessarily by the knowledge, but at least by the confidence to act in a calm and composed way.