Learning First Aid by Sue Duncan

Welcome to Thoughts from the Road. Here’s Sue Duncan on learning first aid for motorcycle travellers…

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By Sue Duncan

Motorcycle traveller - 2wheels2panniers2up

Sue and Graeme Duncan from New Zealand are two New Zealanders riding around the world two-up on their motorcycle a few months at a time. 

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Facebook: @2wheels2panniers2up

Learning First Aid

Our first big motorcycle trip was through North America for four months back in 2019. We carried a small first aid kit and Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) and didn’t think much about it.

Once we got home, Graeme and I were listening to a podcast and first aid training and staying safe on the road came up. It made me reflect on our travels and the more I thought about it, the more I realized how underprepared we really were…

We travelled along very remote roads and two-up. Motorcycle accidents can mean big and serious injuries, and travelling off the beaten track can mean long waits for emergency help. So to better prepare ourselves, I decided to look around for some sort of training.

But, in New Zealand I could only find urban based courses or a five-day pre-hospital level one. There was nothing motorcycle specific. So I decided to organize my own. 

After a post on Facebook, it became obvious there was plenty of interest and demand for it and I was messaged by a member of a FB group saying her husband “does that stuff”, rides motorcycles and lives around the corner!

Turned out, he’s an ex-army medic, an advanced paramedic who has worked in remote areas like the Middle East and oil fields of Canada as well as at a motorcycle racing facility. Perfect!

We devised a two-day motorcycle specific course aimed for riders heading to remote areas with delayed access to help. It covered CPR, safe helmet removal and dealing with bleeds, breaks and burns. We had a brilliant time delivering this course three times with people from all over New Zealand coming to stay with us to do it. 

Here’s some of my favourite tips.

  1. If you’re in a group, find out any medical conditions and medications other riders have and how to treat them if needed.
  2. Put some cardboard in your back protector pocket in case you need to use it as a splint.
  3. Most ready-made first aid kits are urban based. Make your own with shears, big dressings, tourniquets, Israeli bandages and bandages with built in dressing pads. If you have room, nappies make great bendy dressings for knees and elbows and tampons are good for puncture wounds. And did you know the outside of vacuum packed dressings can be used as seals for punctured lungs too!
  4. Another important one on helmet removal – if the rider’s airway is compromised, you must remove the helmet because if you don’t, they will die. Learn how to do it quickly but safely. And perform CPR until everyone in your group is no longer physically able to.
  5. Take an emergency satellite communicator or PLB, these life-saving devices will immediately contact emergency services with your precise location and send help.

There’s so much to learn from a first aid course. There’s a lot to cover and a wealth of knowledge out there. Riders and travellers invest a lot of time and money into preparing their bikes and gear, so it’s worth also taking a little time to make sure you’re prepared for an emergency situation too.

The problem is, like we found in New Zealand, that there might not be an abundance of courses nearby. Or there might not be any motorcycle specific training either. No matter, just persevere. Travel further to attend a course, go on Facebook, post about it in groups, forums, websites, ask around and get the training. It could save yours or someone else’s life.

Sue Duncan

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Thanks for checking out this Thoughts from the Road column. We hope you enjoyed it! Here’s a few more articles on adventure motorcycle travel that we recommend you read next. 

7 thoughts on “Learning First Aid by Sue Duncan”

  1. This is the kick up the bum I need! I have been planning a big trip for a long time and always put off first aid and safety etc. Thanks for writing this.

  2. Hi, this Henry. I.m from Germany. I read your post with great interest, but had difficulties, to understand some advices, instead I used google translate or deepL to translate it. Maybe you can help me.
    1. “Put some cardboard in your back protector pocket in case you need to use it as a splint.” I don.t understand, what is meant “to use it as a splint”. Do you mean to roll or fold a cardboard to stabilize a hurted part of the legs/arms?
    2. “And did you know the outside of vacuum packed dressings can be used as seals for punctured lungs too!” Can you explain me, how to do that and what is the function?

    Thanx a lot for some help,
    kind regards, Henry

  3. Yes, store a piece of cardboard that can be used to fold around a broken limb. Then bandage it in place. With the plastic bandage wrap ..use this if there is a lung puncture. It is designed to be placed over the puncture wound, tape down on 3 sides but leave one open. As the patient breathes in the plastic seals over the wound but as they breathe out it allows air to escape through the untaped side. The bandage wrap if opened carefully is sterile on the inside, so put that sterile side against the wound. (https://www.artofmanliness.com/health-fitness/health/how-to-treat-a-sucking-chest-wound/)
    Hope that makes sense


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