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Tillman & Associates, Attorneys at Law

What first aid can you offer a spinal injury victim?

A sudden fall from a loading dock, toppling over a low railing or a slip on the stairs can lead to tragic spinal cord injuries -- and co-workers who witness the event naturally want to help.

However, there's a right way and a wrong way to help someone who might be suffering from a spinal cord injury. Call 911 immediately and then use this guide:

When your co-worker is unconscious:

If your co-worker doesn't seem conscious, do not move him or her any more than necessary.

  • Check to see if your co-worker is breathing. If not, ask the 911 operator if you should start cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and follow his or her directions.
  • If your co-worker is breathing, touch just the sides of your co-worker's jaw with your fingertips and open his or her mouth as far as possible without tilting his or her neck.
  • Aim to support your co-worker's head -- if you aren't able to do it with your hands, use rolled up shirts, towels or blankets to gently cushion your co-worker's neck and head until professional medics get there.

When your co-worker is conscious:

If your co-worker is conscious, the first thing that you want to do is try to keep him or her calm. That may not be an easy task if he or she can't feel his arms or legs or is in severe pain.

  • Ask your co-worker to concentrate on breathing with you. Take three deep breaths in and let them out slowly, counting them as you go. Repeat this as many times as necessary in order to help your co-worker concentrate on breathing and staying calm.
  • Tell your co-worker not to try to move. Explain that unnecessary movements can make a spinal injury worse, so it's important to try to stay still.
  • Ask others to gather towels, blankets or clothing that can be rolled up and used to cradle the victim's head and neck in its current position to eliminate unnecessary movements.

It's also important to convey everything you're doing to the 911 operator and make sure that you follow his or her instructions until the paramedics arrive. These actions will give your co-worker the best chance at recovery.

Anyone who suffers a spinal injury at work should consider contacting an attorney in order to discuss his or her rights to compensation and options for recovery.

Source: Mayo Clinic, "Spinal injury: First aid," accessed Oct. 03, 2017

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