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Training to sustain life

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An increasing number of people are attending CPR courses that organisers say aim to make people confident enough to take action during a crisis

Cori Parks (right) during a first-aid training course last year in Phnom Penh. PHOTO SUPPLIED

Learning first aid in Cambodia or anywhere in the world, for that matter, is not a priority for most people. However, in a country where health professionals can be few and far between, learning basic first-aid skills can save lives and reduce lasting injuries.

Many people express an interest in first aid, but most are reluctant to put the time into learning the skills, says Cori Parks, who runs first-aid courses in Phnom Penh.

That is, until something happens and they realise it could have been them or their loved ones, she says.  

"You make a choice to come to Cambodia, to raise your children outside of a 911 emergency response system. Consequently, you should prepare, not just wait until something happens," Parks said.

A personal trainer by profession, Parks is required to know first aid and decided that the best way to stay up-to-date with new developments in the field was to become a certified instructor herself.

"My desire to be an instructor really hit home when a neighbour's child died from choking while under the care of a nanny. It was really shocking to me that nannies didn't know what to do," she said. "I hate to say it, but in my experience, when there's a big catastrophe, my business shoots through the roof."

Sustaining life

The eight-hour course offered by Parks costs US$60 per person and covers topics such as rescuer safety, medical emergencies, injury emergencies and environmental emergencies. In addition, there is a hands-on practical component to the course and CPR training.

For the most part, with first aid you’re not giving medical care. you’re

sustaining life.

Upon completion, participants receive an internationally recognised two-year certification from the American Heart Association.

Parks said it is important to make people confident enough to take action in emergency situations and seek qualified help.

"For the most part, with first aid you're not giving medical care. You're sustaining life until medical care can happen," she said.

Dr Nick Walsh from International SOS Medical Clinic, which also runs first-aid courses, agrees.

The majority of accidents, such as burns and bleeding, happen in the home, he said.

"The aim of first aid is to minimise damage to the victim. The patient is going to benefit from your presence and your training. It's not about saving lives, as the patient may be untreatable. It's about helping someone until they get to an appropriate medical facility," he wrote in an email.

Courses at SOS start from $100 per person for a two-day course and are offered for both groups and individuals. They are taught in either Khmer or English by clinic staff, who use first-aid skills regularly in their work.

To maintain standards, participants do not automatically qualify for a two-year certificate following completion of the course.

 "Not all will pass if they do not meet certain criteria," Walsh wrote.

General knowledge

The Cambodian Red Cross also offers courses in Khmer aimed mainly at schools, companies and organisations that want their staff to have basic first aid skills. More than 6,500 individuals have completed the course since its inception in 2000.

The three-day course costs US$30 per person and covers all standard subjects from theory to interactive skills practice. Upon completion, participants receive certification valid for one year. Later, they can gain a permanent certificate valid throughout Southeast Asia.

Kor Heng, who runs the courses, says most people in Cambodia have very limited knowledge of first-aid measures.

"Sometimes, people try to do CPR by compressing on the chest, but really they have no idea what to do or how [to do it]. Every so often, people also put soy sauce or toothpaste on burns, but this does not benefit the victim," he said.

A large part of the work of the Red Cross is to promote correct ways of responding to both small and large emergencies.

Chenda Ban, a third-grade assistant teacher, recently took part in a course held by the Red Cross at her school.

"In the classroom, if someone has an accident, I need to know how to help them. It makes me feel proud to know what to do now," she said.

For information, contact Cori Parks at lifestylecori_ography@yahoo.com, Kor Heng at cfa@redcross.org.kh, or contact the International SOS medical clinic.

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