Youth learn to take the helm with first aid


Cadets learning first aid

CPO2 Nathalie Scalabrini knows should her 10-year-old daughter Alexandra ever encounter an emergency medical situation, the she has the skills to appropriately address the situation.

Her confidence is derived from training received through St. John Ambulance.

Alexandra has reached the level of Cadet in the free first-aid based St. John Youth Program, after two years of committed volunteering.

Both mother and daughter are involved in the program; Chief Scalabrini is the Administrative Officer for the St. John Ambulance 61C Colonel Michael Allen Division.

“My daughter was coming to an age where it was very important for me to have her to join the community as an active member, but I wasn’t sure how to make that happen,” says CPO2 Scalabrini. “So I brought her to one session, and she fell in love with it.”

Their division first formed in May 1977, and provides leadership opportunities to youth ages six to 18. For two hours every Monday night, over 25 participants – Juniors, Cadets, Crusaders, and Officers – gather to practice first aid skills in a team-like, supportive setting.

Parents often line the sides of the room, watching their children learn how to clean wounds, care for broken bones, practice CPR, check vital signs, and act out emergency scene management –  to name just a few of the skills practiced. Those viewing the session are often invited to play the victims – a necessary role for a room full of budding first aid practitioners.

CPO2 Scalabrini’s initial participation took the form of observing, but soon, she says, she began taking on higher levels of responsibility, which didn’t surprise her. At least half of the organization’s key officers and instructors are military members.

Every week, a new chapter from the St. John Ambulance First Aid manual is taught by an instructor possessing Standard First Aid, CPR-C certificate, and often, the Medical First Responder certificate. Main instructor Leanne Wood has been volunteering with St. John since she was seven years old. Many children, like Wood, end up volunteering for years after their initial sign-up. Once volunteers reach the age of 18, they are given the possibility to join the adult division.

Rigorous prac

tice prepares the youth to assist certified officers with their duties during festivals, sports games, marathons, and other large-scale public gatherings. One youth participant is paired with one certified officer during events, providing further close instruction and hands-on practice.

Youth-adult pairs from St. John have been a constant fixture at the Victoria Day parade, Island Farms parade, and the Saanich Fair. For the past two years, the charitable organization has been called upon to provide first aid to spectators of the HarbourCats baseball team.

CPO2 Scalabrini is amazed at how helpful the youth assistants are, and especially at how effectively a child is able to care for another child.

“Our youth volunteers calm down any injured kids at events. When a hurt child is the one in pain, our children calm them down so easily.”

The weekly sessions and hands-on experience at events lead to the culminating event of the St. John Ambulance Youth Program – the Annual Field Day first aid competition. This will be the 74th first aid competition organized by St. John, held this year on April 11, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Esquimalt Recreation Centre.

All St. John Youth programs from the Island and the lower mainland are invited to participate, with individual competitions organized according to age and gender. Each First Aid category awards a single trophy to one team of four. At any given time during the day, 12 teams will be competing against each other, with each team performing first aid on their designated mat.

At the beginning of a round, one victim, made up by a professional casualty simulator, is placed on every team’s mat, for a total of 12 casualties in the room. As victims wait, teams are sequestered in private rooms with their respective judges, who provide a basic explanation of the casualty. All 12 teams are released on the floor at the same time, first aid kits in hand, and guided by a chosen lead. Once they have reached their mat, they must take immediate action to properly treat their victim for no longer than 15 minutes.

Competitors are judged according to St. John First Aid protocol, and their actions are assessed for accuracy, and performance of the correct steps and order.

Scalabrini says the responsibility and commitment that the participants maintain give them opportunities to keep learning.

“These are life skills,” says CPO2 Scalabrini. “To be able to communicate so well with others, to help out others in need without expecting anything back…it’s amazing. What astounds me most, though, is how proud these kids are to be participating.”  

She is happy about the program’s impact on her daughter. She says that about three weeks ago, she received a call at 8:30 a.m. from her daughter, who was at school. She was told that a little girl in her daughter’s class had a seizure. She laughs as she recalls her daughter’s voice, exclaiming, “I couldn’t do anything, Mom! We were asked to sit down!”

And when a pedestrian was struck by a bus CPO2 Scalabrini and her daughter were riding in, the two were first on the scene to care for him until the paramedics arrived.

Cadets Alexandra Saumure and Goldie Beckett (playing the casualty) learn first aid strategies from Callum Elsdon-McLeod (far left), main instructor Leanne Wood, and Shawn Beckett.

“I just feel safer knowing that if my daughter encounters an emergency, she’ll understand what to do. Wherever she goes, whatever she does, she’ll have the skills I helped give her,” says CPO2 Scalabrini.

Rachel Lallouz, Staff Writer

Filed Under: Top Stories

About the Author:

RSSComments (0)

Trackback URL

Leave a Reply

If you want a picture to show with your comment, go get a Gravatar.