Vietnam has very different road safety rules compared to your host country. Be sure to follow the road safety rules you use at home and make sure family and children always look both ways when crossing the street; this is really important when the traffic flows in both directions. Try to remember to always put on your safety belt when you are in the car and if you ride motorbikes, helmets are a must.
We know riding a bike will increase the likelihood that you have an accident in Vietnam; we recently treated a young expat girl who drove her bike over a pot hole in the road which was deeper than she expected. Over the handle bars she went and subsequently crashed to the ground, with cuts and a broken arm. She was lucky, as people around her got her to the side of the road as quickly as possible and then she was given immediate medical assistance.
Doctors talk about the ‘golden hour’ — a euphemism for the time after an accident when medical assistance is needed. The ‘golden hour’ can be a few minutes to several hours from the moment of injury, depending on the severity of the accident; this is the window of opportunity for medical intervention.
Responding to an accident or pain is ‘time critical’ — there is no time to waste — but what should you do if you are at an accident, want to help, but medical assistance is too far away?
Calling for Help
Always make the call for help immediately; or if you can’t, then ask some one else to do it for you.
Make sure the following information is given to the medical services:
— Your telephone number (if you are cut off the emergency service will be able to contact you)
— The location of the incident. Road names or numbers, landmarks, map reference, satnav positioning reference, etc.
— Description of the incident, for example: “Motorcycle has hit a bus — the motorcyclist is not moving.”
If it’s safe to proceed and you need to assist the victims who need help:
Try to talk to those who are hurt. Don’t move them, as this could worsen their injuries. Movement is only recommended if the patient might be in more danger; electric wires, a possible fire or oncoming vehicles. Be calming and assure the victim that help is coming. You can also cover them with something warm if they need it, shade them from the sun, or just hold their hand.
Remember, you’re not a medical professional (unless, of course, you are one!) So it’s not your job to treat major injuries — just try to keep victims safe until professional help arrives.
The quiet casualties are probably the worst injured, however you will need to reassure the nervous, noisy ones that help is on the way.
Simple First Aid
— Immediately look around for any possible danger to yourself or other providers.
— Don’t move casualties: You may cause further injury unless more imminent danger is possible to either the victim or yourself (electrical or fire hazard).
— Check for breathing. If the casualty is not breathing, commence CPR.
— Stop bleeding. Firm pressure on a wound will stem bleeding; do not remove any objects which have penetrated the body.
— If an open bleeding fracture to a limb, apply tourniquet pressure above the injury to reduce blood loss.
— Don’t give casualties anything to eat or drink. This can cause complications for medics and delay life-saving treatment.
Making a Difference
Once you engage with the patient and start to help you must stay at the site until the Emergency Service team arrives and you will be able to provide information to them. While you are waiting, you may be instructed to perform any necessary treatments; CPR, bleeding control and choking can all be helped and your assistance can significantly impact the victim’s recovery. Being a First Aider has many benefits and regular First Aid Courses are always possible and can save lives.
Dr. Brian McNaull is the Medical Director of Family Medical Practice Hanoi. For more advice on any medical topics, visit Family Medical Practice Hanoi on 298 I Kim Ma, Ba Dinh or call (04) 3843 0748. FMP’s Ho Chi Minh City clinics are at Diamond Plaza, 34 Le Duan, Q1; 95 Thao Dien, Q2