Expat Magazine

98. First Aid

By Martinfullard @MartyFullardUAE

First aid is a basic fundamental practice that is taught world over to people of all ages.  It’s a great idea and potentially life saving.  There you are walking down the street when you see someone collapse.  You run over, clear their airways, put them in the recovery position and wait for the professionals to turn up and pronounce them dead.  It’s all jolly exciting and can provide a first rate pub conversation.

As a result of my job I have been first aid trained since 2001.  In that time I have always forgotten absolutely everything when I needed it.  In the tests I have done I boss it, “full marks Fullard” my examiners used to call me.  Then, as I walk along the street and stumble across a man lying on the ground I forget it all, call an ambulance and stand there poking him with a stick.

There is nothing worse than first aid tutelage.  I used to go on the 5 day courses and all they were was an extension of bedtime.  The hours of droning, the eerie decapitated torsos called “Annie” that just kept dying and the humiliation of having to shout a running commentary of everything you’re doing to a room full of strangers:  “OPENING THE DOOR.  ANNIE’S ON THE FLOOR.  CHECKING THE IMMEDIATE ENVIRONMENT FOR SOME REASON.  SHE’S DEAD, JIM.”  Urgh, it makes me quiver to this day.

The point is that we remember the basics when we need to.  You know that if you attend a man who has come off his motorbike that you do not remove the helmet since it might be holding his head together.  The same with suspected back injuries; don’t touch them in case it makes it worse.  If someone is having a heart attack then the best you can do is get them in the recovery position and pray for the nightmare to be over.  How to make a triangular bandage or pull a nine inch nail out somebody’s face however, I think, is best left to the professionals.  I know if I was the injured victim I would be very sceptical of the abilities of my have-a-go hero.  I would rather wait for a paramedic.

In the UAE life is different.  If you administer first aid to someone and say, they die, then you stand trial.  Even if you run over to a burning vehicle to rescue any survivors you are risking jail.  I am not making this up; even paramedics have been known to find themselves in a jam.  How scary is that?

98. First Aid

“Right men, today we will be teaching the local transportation officials the basic practice, of first aid”. “Are you sure that’s wise, sir?”

Because of this fact I found myself most inquisitive this morning when I discovered that taxi drivers in Dubai are to be trained in the ancient art of first aid.  Call me Sergeant Wilson but, are you sure that’s wise, sir?  I agree that everyone should have basic first aid training, but in the real world where some people have trouble acknowledging simple things like speed limits and white line markings on the road, I’d think twice before allowing someone to give me mouth to mouth.  Particularly if he had a beard.

I know I’m going to upset the do-gooder-equality brigade here, so forgive me, but are you aware that taxi drivers (like everyone in the UAE) has to take a special test and have a special license to operate a manual transmission automobile?  Automatic transmission is the standard because it’s child’s play and easy to use.  Manual cars, with their clutches and their gear sticks, have been deemed too technical and tricky for every day use.  So, the same people who are not trusted to operate a clutch pedal and a gear stick are going to be trusted with heart monitoring equipment and other such apparatus intended to save a persons life.

Ok, fair enough.  Right.

I’m not alone when I state that the driving standards adopted by the vast majority of taxi drivers in the UAE are nothing short of abysmal.  There’s nothing worse than that sinking feeling you get when you get into a taxi that doesn’t have seatbelts in the back, some mad music is playing, the driver has his shoes off, the smell makes your eyeballs bleed and he’s driving on the wrong side of the road, at 200 million kph.

I just don’t see the point.  The Dubai Corporation for Ambulance Services have given us a load of figures stating that so far in 2012 they have attended nearly 4000 heart related cases and over 500 kidney failure cases.  How can you expect a taxi driver, who thinks it’s ok to drive up Sheikh Zayed Road the wrong way whilst on the phone, to save someone whose kidney has just popped in the back of his taxi?  Judging by my past experiences, as you lay there at deaths door he’ll try to charge you for the mess.  The final humiliation.

What about the logistics of the whole thing?  How many different languages have you heard behind the wheel over here?  Hindi, Urdu, Arabic, Malayan, Sri Lankan, Bangladeshi, Nepalese, Tagalog… No ones first language is English, and when you start talking about Annie and all the fancy anagrams I doubt very much that you are going to have the audience’s full attention.

Of course it all comes back to the idea of that if you legitimately go to someone’s aid and they later die or are paralysed, you are accountable.  With that in mind do you think that a taxi driver who earns only AED 2000 a month is going to risk his income for his family to save you, a stranger?  I know that sounds horribly crass but it is a bleak truth.  The risk is greater for women, men would be very reluctant to help a woman for reasons I’m sure you all fully understand…

It’s a nice idea, giving all taxi drivers first aid training, but ultimately you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drive well.  Maybe it’s just a ploy, since the taxi driver is the person most likely to injure you in the first place, the extra bonus of receiving the kiss of life from some guy with a beard may just be the ticket.  It’s a nice gesture but ultimately as pointless as an ASBO.

The real solution?  Carry a cyanide capsule around with you.

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