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Heading off holiday mishaps

An expert talks about avoiding Yuletide hazards and what to do when aid is needed.

By Maan D’Asis Pamaran

DECEMBER 2013 - JANUARY 2014

The holiday season is a time to celebrate, and it means parties, gifts, and overindulging in rich food for many. Merrymaking gets into full swing as soon as December sets in and tapers down sometime after New Year’s. A lot can happen at this time—huge family reunions, weddings, barkada night-outs—and untoward incidents.

Michael Deakin, managing director of Lifeline Rescue, says their emergency calls peak at around this time of year. He discusses some of the more common cases, their causes, and what anyone around at the time of the incident can do about it.


Heart attacks and hypertension

Screen legend Fernando Poe, Jr. died from a stroke after an early Christmas party where he went eating and drinking with friends. He was said to have felt dizzy and was brought to a hospital, where he slipped into a coma and passed away a few days later.

The holidays make it such a challenge to eat healthy because of the amount of high-caloric food offered at gatherings. Deakin cautions that even when you overindulge during the holiday and make it through the season, it doesn’t mean that you’re in the clear. A lot of episodes actually happen during summer, a residual effect of the patient’s indulgence three months before. “During Christmas, you put on the weight, and [if] you don’t take it off, you’re headed for trouble. If you indulge too much, you will pay for it eventually. When you take in too much bad cholesterol over time, you clog or damage your veins and arteries leading to either an aneurysm [or a bulge in an artery wall] or an embolism [which is a clot or bubble in the bloodstream].”


Road accidents

Deakin quips, “The roads have become wider, cars have become faster, and drivers are still reckless.” Accidents are now the fourth leading cause of death in the country and a lot of these are caused by drunk drivers and reckless motorcyclists.

Drunk driving peaks at around Christmastime. Some even feel a sense of accomplishment or claim bragging rights when they are able to get home in one piece without remembering how—they were that wasted. Deakin begs to differ: “Think about it, if you don’t remember how you got home, how could you remember if you hit a pedestrian on the road?”

According to Deakin, anesthesia is not administered to those under the influence of alcohol or other substances. “There could be a reaction, especially if we do not know what and how much substance is in your system.” To avoid an unanesthetized encounter with the Jaws of Life, having a designated driver or taking a cab would be a good idea.

For those who hesitate about leaving their cars behind, Lifeline has a service where they can pick you up and bring you home in their vehicle, while another staff member follows in your car. “If we see that you’re highly intoxicated and in danger, we won’t leave until you are sober, or until we can wake someone up to stay with you,” he adds.

You might have the sharp reflexes to avoid an oncoming drunk driver, Deakin points out, but in swerving, you might hit someone else who’s sober. Your best bet: avoid driving in the wee hours of the morning, when more drunk drivers are most likely to be on the streets.


Firecrackers and gun wounds

There are lesser incidences of blown up fingers because of the effective campaigns launched by the Department of Health (DoH) against illegal firecrackers. The numbers of New Year’s gunshot victims are also on the decline, with stricter measures being enforced by the police and military.

Unfortunately there are still people like Joji, who got a bigger bang for his buck last New Year’s. “I bought [a firecracker] called Goodbye Philippines … It looked really impressive! The seller assured me that it would make a really loud sound … I took all the usual precautions, such as standing a bit far off and lighting it with [a sparkler] instead of lighting the wick in my hand and throwing it away. I planned to run as soon as the wick was lit, but it exploded too quickly. I think a spark from the luces ignited the paper wrapping.” He was lucky that he only suffered second degree burns on his leg. “Of course, the emergency staff was very effective and efficient while treating me, but I could see them [silently admonishing] me for buying an illegal firecracker,” he recalls. Now, with a rather impressive welt on his left leg, he vows to stick to torotot to welcome 2014.

Choose only from the approved list of fireworks from the DoH, and practice safety precautions when lighting up, if at all. Avoid staying in open areas for too long to avoid the possibility of stray bullets.


Learn how to handle emergency situations and get more holiday safety tips from Lifeline Rescue managing director Michael Deakin. Get a copy of the December 2013-January 2014 issue of HealthToday.







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