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Help Me If You Can

This entry is part 7 of 16 in the series Adventure Rider Issue #39

First aid can save lives and significantly reduce the severity of injuries, and it’s good knowledge to have. But what happens if the patient doesn’t want first aid…or any other kind of aid? What happens then?

Most riders would have had some level of instruction in administering first aid, whether it’s keeping an accident victim warm, clearing an airway or administering CPR. Usually that instruction is done in a nice, clean, controlled environment, perhaps a first-aid or ambulance station. The patient is either a mannequin or another student on the course who does their best to lie still and play injured.

In the stress and adrenalin of a serious bike incident, things seldom happen that way.

No thanks

While most of us can offer comfort and give mouth-to-mouth to a mannequin or classmate, we’ve never seen anything written about, or been instructed in, dealing with a rider who doesn’t want to be helped.

It happens.

Adventure Rider Magazine’s editor was seriously injured, but in the depths of a heavy concussion, refused to let his very capable riding companions anywhere near him. He insisted on trying to remount what was an unridable bike, refused all offers of comfort and assistance, and even physically wrestled with the doctor when he was finally offered professional help What can be done in that situation? How can help be given to someone who’s actively refusing it, even though it’s plainly needed?

We went to some front-line professionals for advice.

Pro view

The members of a medical team at a large road-race circuit are not only specialists in dealing with motor-cycle-related injuries, they’re necessarily prepared for every call to be an extreme incident. Unannounced, Adventure Rider Magazine pushed the doorbell on a medical centre at one of Australia’s largest road-race circuits and asked the question of the first responders on shift, “What can we do to help a friend who doesn’t want to be helped?”

They were clearly thorough professionals and found the question very interesting. They talked a great deal about the concept of a patient being uncoop-erative for medical reasons – like a concussion or dis-orientation – not because the patient was under the influence of drugs or medication.

After some discussion there was no definitive answer. Every situation of this nature would be so entirely unique and individual there could be no guaranteed, or even recommended, method of dealing with it.

There were a few things the pros underlined, though.

• Safety first. Take the keys off the patient and try to minimise any further possible harm. This should be a major aim for any untrained rider trying to help another. Make sure he or she isn’t able to get back on the bike. Secure the area. If the rider can’t be contained, remove as many risks as possible. Try to get them clear of any traffic or away from hazards like cliffs, rocks or fallen trees
• Ensure the safety of the helper. Make sure the situation remains a problem for one victim, not an escalation to two or more. The helper mustn’t put themselves in a dangerous situation in an effort to provide assistance
• Avoid trying to hold down or grapple with an uncooperative patient. Don’t get physical and grab or wrestle with them. It could aggravate any injuries
• Try and talk to the victim and bring them to reason
• Get professional help ASAP.

It’s possible a badly hurt rider, especially one suffering with concussion,can offer active resistance to anyone offering aid. It’s a tricky situation when it happens.

The Good Samaritan act

Sheer humanity – we hope – would make anyone anywhere stop and help someone in trouble, but in this day and age there’s always the possibility of a legal difficulty.

What happens if the first on the scene does what he or she thinks is best, but in fact makes things worse, possibly aggravating the injuries and damage to the fallen rider?

In Australia, what are commonly called Good Samaritan laws offer ‘legal protection to people who give reasonable assistance to those who are, or whom they believe to be, injured, ill, in peril, or otherwise incapacitated’.

Like all beaut laws, the intricacies of this lot my vary from State to State and territory, and may even have overriding federal versions.

You’ll need to talk to a champion lawyer – bless ’em – to find out the situation in your State, region or possible incident. But as a general overview, someone attempting to help a fallen rider, and acting in good faith, will have some degree of legal protection if things don’t go well.

Eye it in

Our research only showed there’s no guaranteed successful procedure for dealing with an uncooperative crash victim. If you’re first on the scene, or find yourself the person charged with providing help, you can only do the best you can as you see it at the time.

It seems the most important thing to keep in mind is safety. Keep yourself safe so you continue to provide help until the pros arrive, and then, as best you can, do your best to keep the victim safe from doing themselves any further harm.

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