By Adline A. Ghani
Emergency situations can happen anywhere, at anytime and usually when you least expect it. An especially heart-stopping occurrence for any parent would be if an accident were to take place and it causes physical injury to a child.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the US, the most common unintentional injuries to children are motor vehicle-related accidents, suffocation, drowning, burns, poisoning and falls that often cause broken bones, cuts and bruises as well as head injuries.
While all children are at risk of such unwanted incidences, special needs children are especially prone.
Mother of two, Amelia Ibrahim, from Rawang, Selangor, has experienced such a scare, first hand. Her children were playing outside their home one day when the phone rang and she went inside to answer it. Soon, she heard the awful wails of her 8-year old daughter Maya. The little girl, who has Down Syndrome, had been chasing her younger brother around the yard when she tripped and fell, scraping her knees on the pavement. The cuts on her knees were quite deep, and her legs and dress were soon covered in blood.
Thankfully, Amelia did not lose her presence of mind. She knew that she was the only one who could help Maya and keep both her children calm at the same time. After giving Maya and her brother some words of reassurance, Amelia quickly went inside to grab her first aid kit. She then applied pressure to the wound to stop the bleeding, and treated it the best she could. Since her husband was away and he had their family car, she called upon their neighbour, who was fortunately home at the time.
They immediately drove Maya to a nearby clinic for medical attention, where the doctor disinfected her wounds and the little girl received a few stitches. Amelia’s story illustrates why it is crucial for parents and guardians of a special needs child to know first aid. Often, it is the first level of help that can be given at home, while waiting for an ambulance or on the way to the doctor’s.
Mr V.S. Maniam, Training Manager at Yayasan Jantung Malaysia and Member of the National Welfare Association, is an expert in first aid and CPR training. He has also created first aid training programmes for homes that care for special needs children.
According to Maniam, “Accidents involving special needs children are not common in Malaysia, as parents tend to be extra vigilant with these children. However, accidents do happen and the consequences can sometimes even result in the loss of life.”
Maniam says that if an emergency were to occur, the first thing any parent should do is to stay calm and not panic. As Amelia’s experience shows, this is especially important, as the parent plays a vital role.
“If the parent does not have the presence of mind to do what is necessary, he or she will not be of much help and could even cause unintentional harm to the child,” explains Maniam. He encourages parents to know the number to call when there is an emergency. “On landlines, the number is 999, while on mobile phones, the number is 112.”
While waiting for help to arrive, Maniam advises that the parent should remember the three principles of first aid — “Preserve life, prevent further harm and promote recovery.” Here is Maniam’s definition and expert advice on these three key principles:
The three principles of first aid
1. Preserve life
The first line of defense in first aid, is to preserve life. This can be done by immediately moving the child away from the source of danger. If there is bleeding, the parent should attempt to stop the bleeding quickly. If the child is choking, the parent should administer the Heimlich maneuver. If a child has passed out, the parent must ensure that the breathing airway is not blocked, and finally, if there is no heartbeat, the parent should perform chest compressions.
2. Prevent further harm
The second thing for parents to remember when administering first aid, is to do everything in their power to prevent the child’s condition from getting worse. For example, if the child has fallen and the parent believes there might be a spinal injury, the victim is not to be moved. Also, in the case of burns, it is not advisable for parents to apply toothpaste or margarine to treat the burn. Instead, if it is a minor burn, they are to run cool running water over the burn for a few minutes. Similarly, parents should not raise an unconscious child’s head, as it may block the breathing airway.
3. Promote recovery
Last, but not least, the parent should attempt to promote recovery. This can be done by taking steps to reduce pain whenever possible (such as by giving ibuprofen), as well talking to the child to comfort him or her and to prevent the onset of panic, fear or shock.
As a final piece of advice to parents with special needs children, Maniam says, “Do learn as much as you can about your child’s condition and undergo formal training to cater to his or her specific needs.”
Parents who are keen to prepare themselves for emergencies, can get in touch with The Kiwanis Disability Information and Support Centre (KDISC). Their website (www.disabilitymalaysia.com) includes a comprehensive list of associations for various disabilities.
KDISC’s services include organising parent and professional education seminars, workshops and discussion groups, as well as organising therapy, assessment and training for persons with disabilities.
First Aid Kit Must-Haves
According to Maniam, a home first aid kit should have three compartments that consist of:
1. Dry dressing
Cotton wool, cotton swabs, cotton buds, gauze, bandages, triangular bandages, sterilised bandages, elastic bandages, surgical tape and adhesive bandages.
2. Wet dressing
Acroflavine, povadine solution (which when applied to wounds, act as an antiseptic that have healing properties) and antiseptic creams. However, Maniam advises parents not to store antiseptic liquid concentrates in the first aid kit. Most people are not aware of how to properly use it and improper use may lead to further discomfort to the patient.
Clinical scissors, tweezers and surgical gloves.
An important point to take note of is that whenever possible, parents should ensure that items are disposable or meant for single use only. All basic first aid kit items can be obtained at most pharmacies.
Where can parents get CPR and first aid training?
In order to be prepared for emergencies, parents in Malaysia can obtain training for both CPR and first aid at Yayasan Jantung Malaysia (YJM). You can reach YJM via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact Maniam at email@example.com.
How long will the training take?
Yayasan Jantung Malaysia offers certified training courses for both CPR and First aid. The CPR training is a 1-day course, while first aid training is a 2-day course. For more information, please visit their website at: www.yjm.org.my .
How much does it cost?
Yayasan Jantung Malaysia’s classes are for a minimum of 10 persons and a maximum of 20 persons per group. The cost of training for larger groups is around RM100 per person for CPR courses and RM300 per person for first aid courses. There will be additional charges for food and refreshments, if required. The cost will generally be a little higher for smaller groups. Yayasan Jantung Malaysia is a non-profit organization. The fee helps to offset the cost of materials and equipment used in the training.