When First Aid Training Becomes Personal

Published: 7 September 2011 17:32 CET

By Eleanor Slade, Volunteer, Singapore Red Cross

In January 2008, Zainudin (Din) Ismail, a volunteer turned staff member of Singapore Red Cross Society (SRC), was on a holiday when his quick thinking and first aid training saved the life of one of his friends. A group of Singaporean bikers, Din amongst them, set off on an exciting road trip to Malaysia, Thailand and Laos. Six days into the trip in the Laotian province of Thakek, disaster struck when one of the riders suddenly lost control of his bike and crashed. The accident occurred in a remote area – there were no houses or villages, and no passing vehicles to flag down. They were on their own.

Din explains: “Isham’s bike suddenly flipped over. He and his wife Yani, who was riding pillion, were thrown into the air. They both came crashing down in a cloud of dust and rubble. The bike was totally wrecked with pieces strewn everywhere. Isham was badly shaken but OK – his only injury was to his left middle finger.” Yani however, was not so lucky; she had a bone protruding with blood trickling from her right upper arm and fractured. Her left boot was nowhere in sight and her left ankle was dislocated.

Din says he knew he had to remain calm and act fast. “I quickly started administering first aid by using saline and cotton wool to clean the wound on her ankle. To try and stop the bleeding, I used some gauze with a crepe bandage to wrap around it. The fracture needed immobilizing but I didn’t have a splint so I took one of the pannier bars from the motorcycle and placed it beside the fracture and used bandages to secure it. I then turned my attention to the fracture on Yani’s arm. Her riding jacket was too thick for my scissors to cut, so I secured another pannier bar to her right upper arm with bandages. By then, help finally arrived. One of my friends managed to stop a passing truck. With Yani’s arm and leg firmly secured, we slowly lifted her onto the truck.”

The group made their way to hospital and Yani was evacuated the following morning to Bangkok for surgery. Only at the hospital did they realise that Yani had a punctured lung and ruptured spleen and her condition was life threatening. It became clear that Din’s first aid probably saved her life for the critical surgeries ahead.

And as for Yani, she says first aid is a vital skill. “It will be great if everyone has basic first aid knowledge as no one would panic then,” she says. “My road to recovery was OK, my family and friends made my healing journey easier. I still have a few aches and pains but otherwise I’m good. In fact, we have just returned from a riding trip to Hatyai, Thailand. My husband and I are very thankful to Din and the others who were with us.”

Din says he’ll always remember how a little training went a long way. “I’ve learnt how first aid can save lives and it’s important to be prepared. You’ve got nothing to lose but everything to gain by learning first aid. You may be saving someone’s life one day.”