When I got up that morning, I wasn’t expecting to wind up electrocuted and left for dead. The consequences of a careless mistake taught me a valuable safety lesson, and by sharing it with others, I hope to save some lives.

 

Everything seemed to be going smoothly that fateful day until I heard,

Zzzt zzzt zzzt — and a man shouting at me,

“Lie down on the ground! Don’t move!”

“What happened?” I asked.

“You touched a cable, and you’ve been electrocuted,” he replied. Keep still.

I lay on the ground — shocked.

 

An emergency scene

As I looked around, it became apparent a bus had crashed, and there were multiple casualties. I listened to the cries of the injured passengers while bystanders asked questions in urgent voices,

“Did you see what happened?”

“Where are you hurt?”

“Did you hit your head?”

“You — in the blue shirt, call 911 and report back to me”.

Utter chaos.

 

Helpless and frustrated

Most unbearable was being unable to help. From my horizontal position, I assessed the scene and thought about everything I could be doing for the injured people around me.

I’d been trained in first aid, but because I’d forgotten to check for danger before rushing to help, I’d become a casualty and was now useless. Silently, I coached the helpers as they gave CPR, bandaged wounds, and supported broken limbs.

Finally, the man who told me I’d been electrocuted called a stop to the proceedings.

“So,” he said, chin down, eyebrows raised, wide eyes looking pointedly at me. “What have we all learned from this exercise?” Cringing with embarrassment, I slowly raised my hand.

 

First aid scenario

It was the end of a two-day Red Cross Standard First Aid & CPR class and time to put our new skills to the test. The instructor had split us into two groups and told my group to wait in the hallway. After a while, we’d be called in to deal with an emergency scene and would have to give first aid to any casualties we found.

The instructor set up the room with the other class members while we waited nervously in the hallway. A few minutes later, he flung open the door with a look of panic. “Help! Quick! There’s been a terrible accident. People are injured!”

 

The crucial question

As instructed, before entering the room, I asked the question, “Is the scene safe?” The instructor paused before answering, “The scene appears — to be safe.” In hindsight, I should’ve listened more carefully to the emphasis he put on the word appears.

Hearts thumping, adrenaline pumping, my classmates and I rushed into the room and looked around. We saw injured people everywhere, moaning, groaning, crying, dying, pools of fake blood on the floor. I ran to a man lying on his back with his eyes closed. Kneeling beside him, I began to check for responsiveness, and that’s when I heard the ominous sound,

Zzzt zzzt zzzt

I looked up in confusion to find the instructor standing beside me. He told me I’d just been electrocuted and pointed to the floor by my casualty’s chest. I noticed I was kneeling on a wire trailing beneath the man’s body.

 

In my rush to save a life, I’d killed myself.

 

A humiliating moment and a powerful lesson

The instructor told me to lie quietly beside my casualty as I was now dead and unable to help him. I lay on the ground, humiliated, while the other students in my group saved their injured people. It was a humbling moment. Until that point, I’d felt pretty confident in the skills I’d learned during the course, but as I lay helpless beside my dying person, I knew I’d missed the most critical step.

I vowed NEVER to make the same mistake again.

Rushing around, not paying attention are common reasons people have accidents. That day, I learned a vital lesson. Whenever you go into a room or a new environment, always check for dangers.

Look up, down, all around. Is there something you could trip on, slip on? Is there fire, wire, gas, glass, drugs, or thugs?

 

Remember — If you’re killed or injured, you can’t help anyone.

 

I completed my training, became a Red Cross first aid instructor, and opened Safe + Sound First Aid Training (still going strong 21 years later). Over the years, I’ve taught hundreds of first aid & CPR courses and trained thousands of people. I’ve electrocuted many students in first aid scenarios. I hope it’s taught them the same valuable lesson I learned years ago. By sharing the story of my deadly mistake, I hope I’ve saved some lives.

First aid instructor in foreground with CPR manikins behind

Gill McCulloch, Owner, Safe + Sound First Aid Training Ltd.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Take a first aid course and learn to save a life.