What to do when someone collapses on your family walk

Family on cliffside path leaning on fence and smiling

As a family we like the outdoors and we like to go walking. In fact we are part of a local church group that goes walking every couple of weeks so feel free to join us if you are near (see walkingcommunity.org.uk for more info). Earlier on this year, we went on a small family walk with a family friend, who subsequently collapsed. So what do you do when this happens to you?

So what happened on our family walk?

We went to Tatton Park which is part of the National Trust. Not what you would call a mountain or anything. They have a lot of land that you can roam in and there is an area with small “peaks and troughs” and trees that makes a great place to play tag with the kids

It was here my friend collapsed. She had complained earlier that her feet were cold and that her hands were cold (but that this was usual) – a sign of poor circulation usually found in women :) my wife has the same problem (as my legs will testify too as she puts her cold feet on them quite often).

She told me though that she was starting to warm up and she quickly joined in the game of tag we were playing with the kids. The next thing I knew she was kneeling and looking very pale. A few seconds later she was probably unconscious (albeit briefly) and very unresponsive (if people are unresponsive to voice commands and pain – they are unconscious).

The thing that impressed me in all this was that she is German and when she did come too a little – she spoke English, which was amazingly helpful!!

First aid when someone collapses

So we

  • elevated her legs (people faint when not enough oxygen reaches the brain – so elevating her legs brings blood back to her body and brain to help with a faster recovery)
  • controlled body temperature
    • Cold Weather: I wrapped her in my foil blanket (she was very cold and shivering. Also, lying still on a cold day is not good – so do whatever you can do to keep them warm. The foil blankets are small, lightweight but extremely effective. The only downside is that you look a bit like a large roast chicken in them!)
    • Summer: here, you’ll have the opposite problem of too much heat (hyperthermia). In which case. remove excess clothing, get them out of the sun if at all possible, given them fluids (like a sports drink) to drink and if you have enough – pour water on them. I’ll do another post on this as we are coming up to summer
  • gave her some chocolate (which will help get some heat into her body as well as make her feel a bit better, it has magical properties where women are concerned)

My wife took two of our children to go and fetch the car so that we could go home. That would take about 20-30 minutes as we had walked quite a way and we had two small children (if I was really concerned about her condition, I would, of course, called an Ambulance).

I monitored her pulse rate, kept talking to her and reassuring her that it would be all OK (it is quite worrying if this happens to you). Josh (my eldest) and I kept her company and eventually managed to get her walking around with some support.

What amazed me was the amount of people that just walked past and didn’t say anything. Picture the scene – there is a guy, with a small boy and a woman lying on the floor wrapped in a foil blanket. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that something here is not right – yet everyone (and I mean everyone) just walked past.

This leads on to an important point – if you need help, make sure you ask someone. Don’t ever assume that people will notice that there is a problem and that they will help. Always ask for help.

Sharon came with the car, and we got the heaters on and after a quick snooze – she was OK again. Phew. It all worked out OK – but it just goes to show you that being prepared is not just a good scout motto, but actually something that is really important – even in Tatton Park.

(If you haven’t seen it – you might also find the post “What Gear to Take on your Family Walk” helpful).

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