Digestible Info Dump

Another exercise from Steering the Craft – to try and communicate a big wad of factual information in a way readers aren’t going to skip.

Anne looked on as David went through First Aid basics for the group of teens they’d been assigned for the afternoon. She managed to hold her tongue until he got to snake bites.

She stepped forward and gently lowered the ‘injured’ leg of the fifteen-year-old ‘patient’, and helped him sit up.

“As David mentioned earlier, raising the injury and lowering the head is good for deep cuts and swelling. Why might it be a problem when it’s a venomous bite?”

David protested, she shut him down with a look. The class looked blank.

“Think this through. If you have a cut, what’s the number one thing you need to worry about?”

The patient looked up at her. “Stop the blood getting out?”

The class giggled and Anne nodded. “Spot on. That’s also why you put the head lower than the heart, get a bit of help from gravity in getting blood to the brain.”

The boy, she thought his name was Brian, looked pleased.

She continued. “So, why would we not want to do the same thing when the bite has poison in it?”

She saw a few faces change, one girl paled. She nodded to her. “What do you think?”

“If you put the bite in the air and then do the gravity thing, aren’t you pushing the poison to the heart quicker?”

Anne gave her a thumbs-up. “Exactly. Snake bites don’t bleed much, so that’s not really your problem. The thing you HAVE to do is make sure the venom moves as slowly as you can possibly manage through the bloodstream.”

David went red and glared, she ignored him.

“So, any thoughts on how you can do that?”

A boy stuck up his hand. “Suck the venom out?”

The class laughed and he scowled.

She said. “Don’t be too quick, that was actually the generally accepted method many years ago. In fact, they’d cut the area around the bite to try and get more blood out.”

Oh, she had them now, this was one of those groups who liked gory.

She went on. “Of course, the problem was, if you had any cuts around your mouth, you could easily end up with the venom in your bloodstream.”

The chorus of ‘ooohhhhhh’s had her smiling.

Her patient leaned back on his hands. “Is this where they do the tourniquet thing?”

“Again, an older method, and, while it’s definitely effective, it’s very much last resort.”

Brian bit. “Why?”

“Because you have to regularly release the tourniquet and let blood flow into the injured limb, otherwise you’re likely to kill it and have to amputate.”

“Well that’s better than dying.” She wasn’t sure where that comment had come from but she grinned her agreement.

“Thankfully, there’s a slightly less drastic method than chopping off Brian’s leg.”

The comments of ‘spoilsport’, ‘pity’, and ‘that’s no fun’, died off, and she continued.

“First, let’s get gravity working for us in the opposite way to a cut.”

She urged Brian into a seated position, with his leg hanging down.

“Second, while we don’t want to cut off the blood flow, we can slow it down with a pressure bandage.”

The class watched as she took a bandage and wrapped it around Brian’s leg, from the imaginary bite site and up, then back down again, past the site, until his lower leg was covered in a firm wrap.

The girl from before spoke. “Ohhh! It’s like when you’ve pulled your sleeve too tight or something and you get pins and needles.”

“That’s right. But you know, I’m afraid I’ve managed to miss out the two most important things we should have done. One is okay to be done now we’ve got the bandage on, but the other thing should have been what we did first, and kept doing right throughout.”

The class looked blank again.

“Let me put it another way. We’ve got Brian all bandaged up like a mummy now. So what do we do next?”

“Call 911?”

The boy who called that out looked indignant at the chorus of groans. “What? It’s what they do in the movies.”

Anne sighed. “Yes they do, unfortunately those movies are all set in America. What’s the emergency number for the UK?”

Only half the class called out. “999”

“Good, although I’ll give you a tip. Most mobile phones will do emergency calls without needing a number. Or you can call 112, that works globally.”

She sat back on her heels. “So, now we’ve got the bandage on and the ambulance is on its way. What have we all forgotten about?”

She opened her eyes wide and pointed at Brian. The class looked blank. She laughed.

“Your poor patient. You have a person here who’s probably freaking out.”

The boy who’d suggested sucking out the venom cautiously raised his hand, she nodded at him.

“That would be bad right? Because if they’re scared and stuff, then their heart rate goes up.”

“Exactly! And if the heart rate goes up, the blood pumps faster. We need our man Brian here to be as relaxed as we can possibly get him.”

The boy smirked. “So we get him a beer?”

Anne sighed dramatically. “If only it were that easy. Sadly, alcohol thins the blood, so it flows faster.”

Brian looked up. “That sucks.”

“It most certainly does. We’ve got about one minute left before the bell goes, does anyone want to cover anything, or pack up and head out.”

Under the general bustle of unravelling Brian and packing up, David walked over to her. “Since when have you been such an expert in snake bites.”

Anne rolled her eyes. “I’m Australian. We learn this stuff in primary school.”

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