Empowering Children Parenting Teaching

Teaching Children to Help in Emergency Situations

Fun Shopping Trip Turns Traumatic

So today, my daughter and I took a trip to Goodwill. She wanted to look for electronic items that she could take apart to see what they looked like inside. We were browsing the electronic section when we heard the crash of glass breaking. As always, we (and others) looked around for the source of the sound. We found it to be a woman in the same aisle as us that accidentally knocked a vase down off of a shelf. A Goodwill employee walked over and then went off to, I assumed, get a broom.

Ok, that’s taken care of, I thought to myself.

After a while, I noticed that the woman was still standing in the same spot holding on to her shopping cart with one hand and holding her foot with the other. “Did she cut herself?” I asked my daughter. We agreed that she had and I searched my purse for a band-aid. I couldn’t find one (great mom I am). As the woman was still standing alone with her cart holding her foot, I took my daughter over to her and asked if she needed help. I noticed that she was bleeding quite profusely. In fact, there was blood dripping all over the floor. I told her I’d go to the front and see if they had a first aid kit.

As I approached the registers, the employee that originally checked on the broken glass was walking out with a broom and a couple of bandaids. I said, “Oh good, you have band-aids.”

When we went back to the woman she was still bleeding, dripping blood on the floor. The man started sweeping up the glass. And I gave her an antiseptic wipe to clean her wound. The cut was deep and still bleeding. She needed help.

Full ER Mode

I ditched my purse and gave her another wipe to apply pressure to her wound. The employee looked at me for direction as to what to do next. I spoke up. “Can we get her a chair so she can sit? I noticed some plastic ones over there.” He brought back a white plastic lawn chair and the woman sat down.

Her foot was still dripping blood. “Do you have latex gloves and a wrap?” I asked the employee. “Gloves and a wrap,” he repeated back to me and ran off. I left my daughter with the woman and went to get another chair so we could elevate her foot.

Foot elevated and pressure applied, the blood flow was starting to ebb. The employee returned with some blue latex gloves, more antiseptic wipes, some gauze, and some large band-aids.

This whole time my daughter was watching, whispering in my ear, “Good thing you’re a doctor, mommy.” (For more on my experience in medical education click here.) She had my purse hanging across her shoulders and was attempting to open another package of wipes for me.

We ended up with a nice gauze pad to apply pressure and improvised a string of band-aids to wrap around the wound and the gauze pad.

Helping Feels Awesome

When all was said and done, the woman thanked me. The employee thanked me. I wrapped the bloody wipes and failed band-aid attempts inside the glove as I snapped it off my hand inside out. I left the woman with a promise that she would go to an immediate care. “Yes,” she said and thanked me again.

I then retrieved my purse from my daughter. And said, “Do you want to go look and see if they have any nice shorts?”

“Sure,” she answered.

I couldn’t have asked for a better adventure with my daughter. Instead of telling her (as I quite often do) that she should help people, I had the opportunity to show her. Additionally, I did it without getting anything in return but a thank you. And that’s quite enough. I hope that this experience will have made a deep impression on her as she travels through life and through an America that has been empowered to step on the downtrodden to get ahead.

What Can You Do?

If you’re still reading this, you care about other people. So here is a quick mnemonic from firstaidforfree.com to help if you ever find yourself in a similar situation:


  1. Sit or lie the victim down
  2. Examine the wound
  3. Elevate the extremity
  4. Pressure on the wound


Janette DeFelice, MD, MA is a writer currently focusing on how the changing environment affects our health. Her essay collection Resistance Essays from the Heartland and her new novel Delia Rising: A Ballet in Three Acts are both available now. She has also published at Be The Change Mom, ChicagoNow, and Medium.com. She holds a Doctor of Medicine degree from Chicago Medical School and a Master’s degree in Humanities from the University of Chicago, where her major essay was Hegel and Ibsen: The Evolution of Consciousness in Ibsen’s Prose Play Cycle. She also has a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Indiana University. A former professional dancer, former adjunct Humanities professor, and former lecturer in Medical Clinical Skills, as well as a mom of 9-year-old twins, she currently finds herself at a career/life crossroads at which she is trying to figure out how to use all aspects of herself (her art, her medical and scientific knowledge, her philosophical explorations, her interest in popular culture as a teaching tool, and her unique perspective) for the good of humanity.

2 comments on “Teaching Children to Help in Emergency Situations

  1. Patricia Bauer

    Thanks for sharing this story, Janette, and for the advice. It is hard to know sometimes what to do! And what a great example for your daughter! (Too bad we don’t live closer . . . I’m sure that I have quite a few electronic devices that she could take apart!)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for commenting, Pat! She wants to be an inventor when she grows up. I think that’s so cool. And our family has been trying to think of some time when we can come visit Dave’s paintings in the Minnesota History Center. We had a plan…and then life happened.


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