By Delaney Kenyon
As a person on this campus with, for a college student, extensive medical training and experience attained through WEMT, EMT-IV, and CCEMS, I know how to respond to a medical emergency when I see one. In this article and continuing articles, I will teach you how to respond to a medical emergency in the best way possible, within your abilities as an uncertified, untrained person on this campus.
Disclaimer — if you want to learn how to fully respond to an emergency, consider getting CPR/First Aid certified — there are tons of courses at Colorado College — or even getting a WFR/EMT certification (training also available on campus). Uncertified and untrained people should never act outside very basic medical treatment and should always call 9-1-1 if off-campus and Colorado College Emergency Medical Services (CCEMS) through Campus Safety (719-389-6911) when on-campus.
The first scenario I will address is “What To Do If Your Friend Seriously Slips On Some Ice.” To start, secure the scene. This means making sure that you are very careful walking over to the person so that you do not also injure yourself in the process of helping them. Do not rush over to your friend, as it is likely that you will also get injured. Next, check to see if your friend is conscious. If they are fully conscious and didn’t seriously injure themself, still consider calling CCEMS — we can help clean any scrapes and cover any scratches. If you would rather not (we’re free though), wash all cuts and scrapes out with water and, if you have it, use hydrogen peroxide or rubbing alcohol. Let it air-dry or pat the scrapes dry with a clean towel then cover with a Band-Aid or some gauze. If there is grit or dirt in the wound still clean it out because, unfortunately, you need to scrub everything out. (Calling CCEMS for this part might help preserve your friendship so you don’t need to repeatedly cause your friend pain.) Grab a paper towel, or clean towel and hold your friend’s hand under running water and rub out all of the dirt or grit that might have gotten into the wound. This will be pretty painful for the person who fell and the individual will definitely be at least a little mad at you.
Now, if they are not quite there yet but moving around and/or making noise that is ideal (well not ideal ideal, but better than unconscious) This person needs more advanced medical care! If he or she is not fully aware of their surroundings or are just kind of groggy it’s likely they got hit on the head. Please call CCEMS or 9-1-1. Ask your friend if they have an injury or if anything really hurts. If the person indicates to a joint, try to keep them from moving it as much as possible. At this point, call CCEMS! We are always on call and would love to help. We can immobilize the joint, contact the athletic trainers on campus, and recommend what to do. If your friend is rubbing their head at all, acting confused, experiencing dizziness/nausea/sensitivity to light, or keep saying the same things over and over again stop IMMEDIATELY and call CCEMS or 9-1-1. Your friend was likely hit on the head and needs more extensive medical attention, as well as concussion testing.
If your friend is unconscious, call 9-1-1 and/or CCEMS while hitting the ground next to the person’s ear and making loud noises — they might respond to this. Avoid shaking your friend in case of a neck injury. If the individual doesn’t respond, look for breaths — just look at the person’s chest to see if you can feel a rise or fall. If they are breathing, good! Watch and see if your friend starts to regain consciousness, keep making loud sounds (shouting their name, greetings, etc). At this point, a 9-1-1 operator and/or CCEMS should be there on the phone to help with the next steps.
If at any point your friend could have caused serious damage to their spine (a fall off of something high (10 or more feet), a fall at a significant speed, a fall where they landed on the head or neck) — stop all movement. Call 9-1-1 and CCEMS IMMEDIATELY. If your friend is still laying on the ground, go to the person, call 9-1-1/CCEMS, and tell the injured person not to move his or her head or neck. If you have been trained to do so, or if a first responder at the scene shows you how to do so, hold c-spine until more advanced medical help can arrive. Sometimes putting a jacket or a backpack next to someone’s face will prevent the person from rotating their neck in a way that would harm the individual more.
Again, there are a lot of resources on campus to help you should an emergency/scary situation such as this occur. If you would like more training think about getting CPR & First Aid Certified. There are a ton of trainings on campus! Also, CCEMS is a free health care resource — utilize it! We can treat and release patients back into their own care without the cost of an ambulance or ER visit, depending on the severity of the injury. If you do call 9-1-1 but your friend is all right, they can always refuse an ambulance ride, if they are able to make informed decisions — which the first responders will determine.