Monday, December 1, 2014

First Aid for Asphyxia

My personal interest in asphyxia as a process in animal organism, its causes and effects grew since I've been a second-grader. Those stories which completely scared my seven-year-old perception, about the people who died from swallowing the food in a wrong way and causing fatal asphyxia, made me sitting now writing this. Both my Grandmother and my homeroom teacher at school told the story which happened in the middle of the last century in then-called Soviet Union. In both of them, a guy died from swallowing food in a wrong way, causing it to block the air from flowing into the lungs. Scientifically, it is called asphyxia due to obstruction in wind pipe. In my Grandma's story, the guy she told about was alone in his home with nobody around when having dinner and ending up so tragically. In my teacher's story, the guy was eating out in a restaurant full of people, and nobody was able to help him due to lack of this basic knowledge. In both cases the ambulance, obviously, as a matter of principle couldn't arrive on time. It is scary to imagine how many people died from swallowing food and blocking the wind pipe. After listening to Grandma and my class teacher, I thought that everyone in the World has some friend of his friend of her aunt's friend who knows a person who died this way. Every single person probably heard this story from different sources at least twice in his life. If such typical story was told frequently enough, why couldn't it happen to anybody?
The second time I understood how important it is this summer, when I almost suffered asphyxia myself a couple times, but fortunately, I coughed it out. Coughing is, clearly, the first reaction of the organism on wind pipe blocking. And there is a clear reason, which I will write about later. Both of the times I was completely shocked by understanding how close the death can be. Both of the times I understood that I could have just passed away, which was terrible not only because such death is so agonizing (three or more minutes of infinite suffer, of grabbing the air which can't be breathed with hands, either being alone or watching the scared and panicking faces of those who can't help; three or more minutes of torturous pain without air, before falling into eternity), but also because I won't be able to complete all those things I've planned to do next hundred or so years, what can as well be said about all those who died young.
As stated before, asphyxia can be only caused by any physical object which falls into the wind pipe and blocks it. This object can be as small as a grain of sand since the wind pipe is literally designed only for providing air into lungs. It happens when swallowing food: generally unexpected and not accompanied with anything. When in elementary school, we used to fool around with my classmates everywhere, including canteen. The teacher told us that story to warn us about the danger of laughing, or jumping, or doing any staff like that while eating. Generally she was right: asphyxia usually happens when a person makes extra movements while eating (laughter, which includes very frequent movements of diaphragm, is the most dangerous in this case), but not necessarily. A lot of deaths were reported, when witnesses reported the victim calmly sitting and eating or drinking, not being in a rush or anything.
The most dangerous thing here is lack of knowledge. Below, I will give the exact instructions on what should be done in such case. But before we continue, I'd like to give the brief intro. Imagine yourself having asphyxia. Right now. And suppose that you as well have no idea what to do. You are alone. In those couple minutes, when you, panicking, still can control your movements, what will you do?
It obviously makes no sense calling or Skyping somebody, since you can't talk, or looking it up in medical encyclopædia (again if you have one), for going to contents page, looking it up, reading the article and learning takes time. Here, a few things can help: either texting somebody who might know or Googling it. Both of the things are the most wise things you could do, but not at all more helpful. Let's take the first one. How long will it take you to text a friend of yours who works for ambulance? How long it will take him to respond? Remember, seconds count. Above that all, even the most mentally strong person is likely to start panicking in such situation. Would you choose Google? Great! Try to type in Google search, or Bing, or whatever, the name of this article. Do it, right now. As you can see, the search results for "first aid for asphyxia" are the scientific articles, or police death reports, or essays like this one. Looks like you lost again, my friend, to your own death.
So here is what you should do. First of all, you should not procrastinate and learn this now. It's not an exam where you can learn something the night before. If in reality it will never happen to you, my congratulations, you were born under a lucky star and you are the 99+% of people who never suffered asphyxia. But how can you know? If you evidence somebody who is not as lucky as you are, things can't be easier. Stand behind the poor one, wrapping his arms around the waist. Grasp the fist with your other hand, and place the thumb of your fist against the abdomen (belly), slightly above the navel and below the rib cage. Now imagine that you hate the victim as much as you can because he killed both of your parents, your wife and children. Your punches may be painful for him, but it's more important that you beat the alien object off his throat.

<<...Press your fist into the victim's abdomen with a quick upward thrust. Repeat several times if necessary till the foreign body is expelled out of the windpipe. When the victim is sitting, the First Aider [i.e. you] stands behind the chair and performs the same manœuvre. If the victim is lying, turn him supine (face up). Facing the victim, kneel astride the victim's legs. With your hands one on top of another, place the heel of your bottom hand over the abdomen (belly) between the naval and the ribcage. Press into the victim's abdomen with a quick upward thrust repeat several times, if necessary. Should the patient vomit, place him on his side and wipe to prevent asphyxia. Following the expulsion of food particle/foreign body it may be necessary to give artificial respiration. ...>>

For the information provided above, I highly thank the Web Health Center. From this source I've learned exactly what I wanted, and as I wrote before, I believe it could have saved many lives if it was on the top Google search results. The information provided on their web page, "Different kinds of asphyxia" are useful for absolutely everyone, and I highly encourage you to visit it right away. Drowning, smoke poisoning and things like that are as well called Asphyxia, happen much more frequently. People commit suicide by hanging themselves as well, which is the number one case of suicides.

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