Future Reflections                                                               Convention Report 2005

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Emergency Preparedness for Blind Children

by Maria T. Garcia

EMT Volunteers pose for a picture.
The workshop volunteers pose for a group shot. Back row: Cory Bowman, Chris Seeley, Dave Gill; and front row: Heather Fritz, Maria Garcia, and Karen Evans.

Editor’s Note: Maria Garcia is the energetic and creative president of the Parents of Blind Children of New York (POBC/NY) and national board member of NOPBC. For the past couple of years, she has been conducting outstanding workshops for parents, children, and teachers in her state. This year, we were fortunate to have her apply her energy and talents to organizing a unique program for blind children at the national convention. Here is her report:

Through the generosity of the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children, the POBC/NY was afforded the opportunity to premiere its new seminar “Emergency Preparedness for Blind Children” at the NFB convention in Louisville, Kentucky, this summer. Thanks to Dave
Gill, Paramedic Instructor at the New York City Fire Department, Emergency Medical
Services (FDNY-EMS) Academy and special consultant to our parents group, we were able to create a unique collaboration with the Louisville Metro Emergency Medical Service. The objective of the seminar was to provide the children with the basic knowledge and skill to recognize a medical emergency and to act appropriately in the face of an emergency.

Mother sits patiently as her daughter practices bandaging a fictitious wound on ther forearm.
Donna Van Etten of New Jersey beams proudly as her 10-year-old daughter, Allison, successfully treats her “wound.”

The seminar was presented in two parts, the first for younger children ranging in ages from four to eight years old, and the second for children from age eight to adolescents. We began each seminar with audio recordings of heart and lung sounds. The children then practiced listening to their own and each other’s heart and lung sounds through the use of stethoscopes. This was followed by an explanation of the correlation between heart sounds and pulse beats and instruction in finding and taking a pulse.

Next the children were taught how to assess an unconscious patient and determine if breathing and a heart rate were present. We then focused on accessing help. We talked about the emergency response system, including mock 911 calls. The next segment of the seminar incorporated basic first aid. We presented a demonstration of wound care, bleeding control, and bandaging. The children then practiced the techniques they had learned on each other.

The seminar for the older children also included an overview of basic Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR). In addition, the children had an opportunity to explore a cardiac defibrillator (with the batteries removed of course) as well as other life-saving equipment.

Groups of people scattered around the room sit on the floor to practice.
After preliminary instructions, everyone in the class gets down on the floor to practice bandaging wounds with their partners.

We were truly fortunate to have skilled personnel on hand to assist the children throughout the seminars. Louisville Metro EMS provided two emergency medical technicians (EMTs), Karen Evans and Cory Bowman, and one paramedic, Chris Seeley. As a senior paramedic for the FDNY-EMS I was able to participate, too, along with my colleague, Dave Gill. We were also fortunate to have the assistance of Heather Fritz, EMT and professional educator, and our newest NOPBC Board Member, Kevin Harris, a fire fighter/paramedic student from Maryland.

There were many memorable moments for the children, their parents, and the professionals throughout the evening. One example was a mother who seemed tentative and unsure of her daughter’s ability to fully participate in the seminar at the onset. Later the daughter bandaged her mother’s arm and performed a fluid assessment of a mock unconscious patient. Both seemed genuinely affected by the child’s growing sense of self assurance in her own accomplishment. Many of the children expressed a feeling of confidence in the knowledge they gained from the experience.

In a culture that treats children and the blind as if they were invisible it was a rare privilege to have the opportunity to present a seminar that empowered and affirmed blind children. I am grateful to everyone who participated.

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