As I blogged about a few years ago, I'm a first aider at work. We have quite a few qualified first aiders in our building, and there were practical reasons related to my job that made getting qualified a good idea for me, but I've always been aware of the importance of having some knowledge of first aid. My Mum (a nurse) taught us common-sense stuff about dealing with medical and other emergencies, and I did my First Aid badges in Brownies and Guides, but my qualification 3 years ago was the first time I had fairly formal training.
I went on an annual refresher course this week, and something the trainer said really shocked me. Apparently about one in three unconscious casualties die -- not from their injuries, but because their airway wasn't kept open at the scene before the ambulance arrived. That's shocking because 'keeping the airway open' isn't technical or difficult at all: all you need to do is place two fingers under the person's chin, support their forehead and gently tilt their head up and back. That's it. But a third of unconscious casualties die because no-one thought to do that simple thing.
I think we all have a responsibility to learn a bit of simple first aid. It's mostly common sense, but if you know how to keep an airway open and stop bleeding (just put your hand over the wound and press hard, as long as there aren't any foreign bodies in the wound), you're half way there. If you can do CPR as well (which really isn't a difficult technique), you stand a good chance of giving someone in a dire situation a much better chance of surviving. All you need to do is keep their brain supplied with oxygen: keep the airway open, keep the circulation going, and stop too much oxygenated blood from leaving their body -- anything else can wait until the ambulance crew get there. We should really teach simple first aid to children in school. It's a vital skill for life -- and for preserving life.