When Scott Adams awoke in the early morning hours to the sound of his wife in clear distress, he was terrified.
But he didn’t panic.
Often, that can be the difference in getting timely help, or wasting precious minutes not knowing what to do.
Adams, at the time an assistant Scoutmaster from Troop 37 in Charlottesville, Va., is trained in wilderness first aid and first aid/CPR/AED, as are all the leaders and older youth of Troop 37.
Ultimately, the situation didn’t call for him to apply first aid. It turned out that she was having a seizure. He kept her comfortable and monitored her condition until EMTs arrived.
She has since recovered.
Still, Adams says he firmly believes the training made all the difference.
“What all that training did for me was it kept me from panicking,” he says. “I absolutely would have panicked if I hadn’t known what to do. Because of the training, I was able to calm myself and call 911. I was able to monitor my wife and continue to Be Prepared should I need to do anything.”
For his actions that morning, Adams has earned a Red Cross lifesaving award. But he insists that the person who deserves the real credit is his first-aid instructor.
The fantastic Mr. Fox
Dr. Jay Fox is a professor and associate dean of research in microbiology, immunology, and cancer biology at the University of Virginia. He’s a Red Cross-licensed instructor trainer in wilderness first aid and first aid/CPR/AED. That means not only does he teach those courses, he also teaches other people how to teach those courses.
He’s also an Eagle Scout and was the longtime Scoutmaster of Troop 37.
It was Fox who, many years ago, decided it’d be a good idea to have all of the adults and youth involved in the troop to be trained, and to renew that training every two years.
(The youngest Scouts are too young to officially become certified, but they go through the process, nonetheless.)
“It’s good to have a lot of people out there who can help if they have to,” Fox says. “Scouts should always Be Prepared, because, you know, stuff like this happens.
“People choke all the time. People suffer cardiac arrests. People have first-aid injuries. You never know when you’re going to be called on. It’s what Scouts are supposed to do.”
Once, a Scout came to the aid of a student who was choking in the school cafeteria.
Then came the incident with Adams’s wife.
Knowing what to do
“What we teach in Red Cross is the three c’s: check, call and care,” Fox says. “You check what the situation is. If it’s life-threatening, which this would have been, you call 911. Then you provide care. In this situation, that would have meant keeping her safe.”
Neither Adams nor his wife, both 52, had had any previous health problems. At the time, he didn’t know she was having a seizure. He called 911 and was able to calmly describe the situation to the operator. He then rolled her over in case she vomited. When EMTs arrived, he calmly explained the situation to them.
“He went through the exact steps we emphasize so heavily in Red Cross,” says Fox. “What we emphasize is, if you don’t get that call in, every second you waste is time that you’re waiting for help – real help — to come in.”
No one really knows how they’d react to a situation like this until it happens. But one thing’s for sure: People with proper training are much less likely to panic (and possibly make the situation worse) than someone who isn’t.
“I thought that was a pretty good validation of our whole program,” Fox says. “Whether it’s your wife when you’re at home or one of the kids at Scout camp, you probably need to know what to do and not run around like a chicken with its head cut off.”
Fox has received the Red Cross’ lifesaving instructor award thanks in part to Adams’ testimony that the training he received is what made the difference that night.
“When you have all of this training, you learn it … it’s there, you know … but you don’t really know if and when you’d ever need it,” says Adams. “I often wondered if the need came along, would I know what to do. Would I be able to recall any of this.
“I found myself in this situation very suddenly. Although I didn’t know what was happening, I found my mind switching to all this training. And I remembered and understood the basics.”
Fox has since become Scoutmaster of Troop 3711, a Scouts BSA unit for girls linked to Troop 37. Adams is the new Scoutmaster of Troop 37.
Fox continues to help with training sessions at the unit, district and council level. He also serves on the BSA’s national aquatics subcommittee.
When their longtime Scoutmaster transitioned into his new role with Troop 3711, the members of Troop 37 presented him with a gift: a custom bobblehead of his likeness.
“We made two,” says Adams. “One for him to keep, and the other to display in our trophy case to watch over the troop.”
Contact your local council for first-aid classes near you. Click here to learn more about the BSA’s wilderness first-aid program, or find a Red Cross first-aid class or wilderness first-aid class.