I admit it. I am biased. I have a long-standing relationship of over thirty years with St John, a first aid service and training organisation which publishes its own text books and teaches their own first aid courses. Linda Buys is a qualified nursing sister with a Level V BAA and years of teaching workplace first aid courses. I am a first aid instructor for St John, also with a Level 5 BAA and years of teaching within the St John Brigade. I like to think that this is precisely why I am particularly well qualified to review The Illustrated South African First Aid Manual both on technical content and on its general readibility and usefulness.
Firstly, on purely academic grounds I approve of “broad reading”. St John sells text books over and above the course material which includes something called a “First Aid: Learner Reference Guide” which actually has enough material for the purposes of the course and for the Level 3 exam. So, theoretically at least, I support students buying whichever text book suits them best. It is called academic honesty. Linda Buys suggests that this book lends itself very well to teaching first aid levels 1, 2 and 3. I concur. I point out that I do not believe that this book is in any way meant to REPLACE the need for current first aid certification.
The Illustrated South African First Aid Manual is set out very rationally, making light work of the introduction which includes what first aid is, what the responsibilities of lay responders are and the ethical considerations to take into account. Legal aspects and practical precautions are dealt with efficiently and succinctly. The second chapter deals specifically with the workplace (many people do first aid courses as a workplace requirement). The contents of the first aid kit is discussed and no bias as to where to buy these kits is evident (I have a bias – buy them from St John).
Anatomy and physiology is briefly discussed in the third chapter. I have become used to this being in an appendix at the end, but it actually makes more sense to cover this early on. The vital signs a first aider needs to help make decisions as to treatment are part of this anatomy and physiology section, again an approach which appears most rational.
The book then wanders on to the various treatments, including the latest protocols of the South Africa Resuscitation Council. I have not read through all the material in detail, but most of what I have looked at in detail is completely accurate, beautifully and briefly stated and a pleasure to read. The only thing I take exception to is the concept of urinating on a casualty who has been stung by a marine animal. That is an old fashioned concept which has been replaced by using sea water or vinegar. Urine may be sterile when it exits the body, but it is a perfect growth medium for bacteria as well as being “icky”. I particularly enjoy the simplicity of the terminology, for example an eyeball out of its socket is referred to as such rather than as an “extruded eyeball” – far simpler to imagine and to remember. The section on common South African poisonous plants is a charming feature absent in the St John textbook with which I am familiar. 10/10 for this.
The illustrations by James Berrange are a pleasure. They make use of diagrams of people of every hue found in our diverse South African population and they mostly make excellent anatomical sense.
The book ends with basic life support for animals – just CPR and choking – which is an area of interest for most people who have pets at home. This is an area of study that I have been begging St John to include (or at least cover in a separate course) for many years.
All in all, I think this is a most worthwhile addition to any first aider’s library. A tip gleaned from another first aid instructor is to take the text book home and put it in the “kleinhuisie” (smallest room in the house – or the “toilet” if you prefer that terminology) where one can read it at one’s leisure over and over again throughout the next thee years until one is again required by law to renew one’s first aid certificate.
- Title: The Illustrated South African First Aid Manual
- Sub-title: For the home, office and outdoors
- Author: Linda Buys
- Publisher: Struik Lifestyle
- Year: 2015
- First published in 2005 as First Aid for the South African home, office and outdoors
- Recommended selling price: R170
- ISBN 978-1-43230-367-9