First Aid at Sea

first aid

First Aid is something I know a little about. Way back in another life I trained as a nurse at St Thomas’ hospital in London. I saw my fair share of blood, trauma and emergencies. So my first aid and resuscitation techniques are fairly good, I have done them for real.
However first aid on a boat is somewhat different. For a start there are no doctors, no shiny  equipment, no bags of blood, no life saving drugs, more often or not just a woefully inadequate first aid kit.
You could be miles out to sea and hours away from any professional help. Life and death is determined in the first 30 minutes of first aid being able to be started effectively.
So a first aid course designed for sailors appealed to me.

Just common sense

On a boat the average first aid book is useless. Not because first aid is different on a boat, it’s not, it just that the environment is so different.
Where on the average deck can you put a full grown man wearing a life jacket and oilies in the recovery position without him either falling down the companionway stairs, rolling overboard or smacking his head on a cleat. Then there is trying to do CPR on a pitching rolling boat in a force 8 and the pouring rain. Chest compressions through a £400 Henri Lloyd jacket and several layers of clothing is not easy. Its not that easy when they are naked and stationary, believe me.
There is no point taking him down into the cabin, more often or not the radio for sending a MAYDAY or instructing a Helivac is in the cockpit. If its just you and the casualty, you need to be able to see the victim at all times steer the boat and man the radio. So chuck the book out and rely on common sense instead.
I am not about to bang on about  airways, bleeding and conscious levels but again what most books don’t tell you are the 2 things that kill the quickest on a boat. Drowning and cold water shock.
Most of us are pretty hot at our MOB procedure but we never focus on the person in the water and what they are going through. Their body is shutting down, they are unable to swim and are getting confused. They are dying the minute they hit that water and it can happen in minutes.
There is a very good  article here. I recommend everyone to read it.

Sea Sickness

The other thing the books don’t tell you about is severe seasickness. Anyone can suffer from it, even very experienced sailors. You can suffer one day in fairly quiet water and be perfectly fine in a pitching howling hoolie the next

sea sick
Sea Sickness

Sea sickness is a conflict between what your eyes see and what your inner ears, which help with balance, sense. It can be life threatening if the dehydration gets too severe. Diabetics who can’t eat are at severe risk of having a hypo. would you know what to do?  Never tell a suffer to “pull yourselves together”. Its not “all in the mind”
So here is a little checklist for you.

  • Make sure your first aid kit contains more than a few plasters
  • Make sure its not in the bottom of a disused locker, can be got at quickly and all members of the crew know where it is.
  • Ask all guests and crew, if they suffer from any ailments such as angina, asthma, high blood pressure, diabetes etc before they get onboard. -All of these can be made worse by exposure to  the cold and wet. And its the first thing the helicrew will ask.
  • Make sure that if they do suffer that they have not left their meds in the car back at the marina.
  • The link below is the official MCA guidelines for requesting Medical Assistance over the radio, down load a copy and keep it in your first aid kit

stay safe….