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Don’t Wear a Blue-ring

By Pascal Geraghty on June 29, 2016 in Other

Photo: Roger Moore

Photo: Roger Moore

How annoying is having to renew your First Aid certification? It is brutal. Two massive days locked in an almighty struggle to keep your eyes open, all the while fighting off restless legs syndrome. Then there are the heroes. There’s always at least one. They lay patiently in ambush, waiting for the instructor to ask the inevitable question if anyone has ever had to use first aid in a real life situation. Then they pounce! “I’ve resuscitated 12 people with CPR” was eagerly spewed forth during my last renewal session. No hesitation. Zero modesty. He was gagging to get it out there, as he’d no doubt done in the years prior.

But cached amongst the self-promotion, there can sometimes be a few handy morsels of advice worth sharing. This same gentleman recounted a sad story of a young lady, a snorkeller, who had been pecked by a blue-ringed octopus off a prominent Eastern Suburbs beach. She saw it happen, and fortunately knew full well what was in store. She rushed herself to the volunteer lifeguards. Within minutes paralysis had set in, she’d stopped breathing and CPR was administered. Her survival depended on it, and them.

Thanks to these volunteer lifeguards this young lady lived to tell the tale. Tragically, however, her saviours had, in the heat and panic of the moment, forgotten to cover her face. Paralysed, she lay on the sand, undergoing CPR, staring straight up at the burning hot sun. Her life was saved, but her eyes were ruined.

Although bittersweet, all in all she was an extremely lucky girl to walk away with her life and this is not about pointing out a mistake. I tip my hat to these generous, skilled men and women who donate their weekends to serve others. I’ve also experienced the overwhelming panic that can consume you when faced with a serious first aid situation, where to all but the most experienced clear thought is reserved for hindsight.

Rather, I wanted to emphasise the importance of first aid. This was a wake up call about simple, real life scenarios that I may become involved in around the water. It also highlighted the potentially valuable role a bystander with first aid knowledge can play, someone ever so slightly removed from the grips of panic who may notice important details possibly as simple as covering a patient’s eyes.

While here, I’ll also take the opportunity to dispel a few myths about blue-ringed octopi. Although one of the most venomous marine creatures, they are tiny, cryptic, shy, docile critters, not aggressive in any way. Their bodies (excluding limbs) are roughly the size of a golf ball and they hide out in crevices in tidal rock pools hunting small crabs, shrimp and fish if they’re fast enough. They present a danger to humans only if the octopus is provoked, cornered and handled, at which point they will flash their blue rings in defence, and even then the small size of their horny beak makes it quite difficult to be bitten. Basically, leave them be, don’t touch and if you see blue rings, bolt!