Being found guilty when you are doing the right thing is tough. But, as MediaHound explains, being presumed guilty when you are saving a life is far tougher—and dangerous.
I was trained in first aid when I was 11 years old. It was interesting and satisfying to find out what to do in so many different situations. Every couple of years I had to take a refresher course and even expand on my knowledge. I had to deal with the occasional cut finger, maybe a minor burn, a splinter. It even helped out with a friend at school who had unstable diabetes—I was his buddy when he was hypo- or hyperglycemic—if he needed help I would make him do the right thing.
I remember when I was 18 graduating to the big league. I even had to do a course on delivering a baby. It wasn’t me turning into a midwife, just knowing what to do in the event of me finding myself in the unlikely situation of dealing with a pregnant woman miles from help, with a baby in a hurry to say “Hello World!” I thought I knew about lady bits. I had done sex-ed at school. Boy, was that one an eye-opener!
The most interesting part of the course was dealing with another student: a middle-aged lady who was of the view that all men were molesters and rapists. Every time we did a training exercise with a female subject and a male student she was clucking her head off about how it was inappropriate, saying things like, “He should not be loosening clothes,” and “Where are his hands going?” There you are, checking to see if a person has a medical alert on a necklace, and she would make comments to the effect that you were definitely groping a breast.
The training was high-quality, and there were a large number of staged real-world scenarios in which you were sent out of the room while a scenario was set up while the other students watched. You walked back in and had to get on with it. Then the judging started and it was worse that any talent contest.
I was presented with a scenario: Someone on the floor, confused and even appearing drunk. It was one I knew well from my diabetic school mate. The problem was it was not my mate but a female student. She had been told how to play the role and she was good. I had to check for that med-alert round her neck and the clucking started.
Quick as a flash I called to this inveterate clunker and asked her to come and help me. She sat looking confused. As it was a real world scenario, I then told her to come and assist immediately. She hesitated, so I told her, in a voice I didn’t know I had, to “get over here now and stop endangering” the person who was ill. She flew to my side.
I explained to her what I believed was happening as if it were real-world. I told her that a check had to be made for that med-alert, and as there were people looking on I did not want to be accused of doing anything inappropriate, so she had to do it. She looked confused and I had to use that voice again: “What are you waiting for? Do you not understand what needs to be done?”
The prize of the med-alert was duly produced, but I did not stop there. She had to riffle the bags of the lady on the floor looking for glucose: her pockets got checked (there was none) and Mrs. Cluck was sent running to everyone in the room asking if anyone had fruit juice as it was an evident case of hypoglycemia and fruit juice is best. All the time I was speaking to the pseudo-patient and reassuring her; asking questions and of course getting nonsense responses, but you never know!
When we had finished I was asked by the trainer why I had called Mrs. Cluck over. I explained that as it was a real-world scenario I had to manage all aspects, and that included onlookers making comments. So I addressed the comments, made sure the person in need was kept safe, and that I was also kept safe. Rule Number One in first aid is protect your own safety and integrity so that you can help the person in need.
The next week I was presented with another scenario: a male with bleeding injuries to a leg. There was no clucking this time, it seemed there was no worry about me abusing a male. So I again called one of the students over to assist. I explained what I was doing and why, and a tourniquet was applied high up in the groin, sealing the femoral artery.
Afterwards I was asked why I had called another student over. I made it clear that if a member of the public had objected and indicated I was doings something inappropriate I wanted a witness who could see everything. I passed the course with the highest grade.
The worst of it is, three times I have had to put my skills into action for real—and three times I have been aware that as I did so in the real world I was being judged by members of the public—and Mrs. Cluck in her many guises was in the crowd. I’m not being sexist when I make that observation. The only people who have objected while I was saving a life were all Mrs. Clucks.
One real-world case was a woman having a heart attack. The next was a motor accident where a pedestrian was knocked down, two broken legs, head injuries and internal injuries. The third time was a woman who collapsed in a supermarket. That was a real hard one to deal with. She had told supermarket staff just before her collapse she was diabetic but then she stopped breathing—no med-alert and no diabetic paraphernalia in her bags or pockets. It turned out she was an alcoholic on a recovery program using Antabuse (Disulfiram) and she had taken a drink, resulting in crashing blood pressure, and when she collapsed she obstructed her own airway and went a very interesting shade of blue. Good job I knew of the symptoms of and management of anaphylaxis.
On each occasion that “What are you doing to her?” question came up and each time I had to deal with it and make the person in need the priority, and other people’s prejudice and stupidity work to serve those needs.
Guilty for helping—no trial required.
I’m not happy that for over three decades as a man I have had to deal with that stereotype of only helping so that I could cop a feel, take advantage, and be a pervert! Wear a uniform and you are safe, but if you’re Joe Public you are open to accusations by anyone passing.
I’m used to dealing with it, but I take no prisoners. Each time I have challenged the accuser afterwards and asked them if they would prefer to get life saving first aid from a pervert or not, and pointed out how their prejudice could have endangered the person if they did not have my experience and training? When I use that voice, sheepish is the response.
But forgive me for being a reasonable man and having to ask the question “How f###ing dare anyone question my motives when I’m the one on the ground saving a life!”
I believe in vigilance against abuse. I have been dealing with cases for some thirty years. But that stereotype of all men are abusers is way out of order. I would like to remind anyone who reads this, It could be you or a family member in need next time, so I hope you don’t have any stereotypes that could endanger that life!
People ask why people stand by and let terrible things happen? I know why, and I won’t let it get in my way!
Guilty? Yes, I am!
But guilty of what?
—Photo Ed Yourdon/Flickr