DALLAS TWP. — If there’s a medical emergency, you could call for a doctor in the house. Or, there’s an alternative. You could call for a Boy Scout.
There are more than 150 Boy Scouts in the area who can handle all sorts of First Aid issues. And they made up the 22 patrols that took over Insalaco Hall at Misericordia University on April 2 to show just what they have to offer. It was the annual First Aid Meet held by the Two Mountains District of Boy Scouts of America, something that has been going on every spring for nearly four decades.
Scouts had the opportunity to work in patrols, demonstrating or talking about solutions to a variety of problems, including snake bites, hypothermia, broken legs, cuts, heat exhaustion and cardiac arrest. The also brought in troop First Aid kits for inspection and had an opportunity to talk with the Back Mountain Fire and Rescue ambulance crew about their life-saving jobs.
It’s a large part of scouting life, said Mark Diefenderfer, District Chairman for the Two Mountains District that includes troops in Luzerne and Wyoming counties.
“When people think about Boy Scouts, they think of knots and camping and survival skills,” he said. “But First Aid is one of the critical life skills that we teach.”
Obviously the young men do a lot of learning.
“I like this stuff,” said Kyle Zern, an 11-year veteran of Troop 281 in Dallas. “It’s imprinted on my brain.”
He calmly talked his comrades through the cardiac arrest demonstration, even helping one of the newest troop members with chest compressions to “save the life” of the CPR dummy.
The groups circulated through 15-minute sessions at a variety of stations throughout the building, getting quizzed by volunteers from both Misericordia and from The Commonwealth Medical College in Scranton. The 75 parents and scouting volunteers made themselves comfortable in the building’s lounge areas while they waited for the uniformed competitors to strut their stuff.
Every team got a score based on their answers to questions about a health situation – what to do in case of a snake bite, (how do you determine if the snake is poisonous, do you use a tourniquet?) – or how do you handle a rash or an allergic reaction?
“I like treating poisons and rashes,” said Zach Calkins, 12, from Troop 155 in Trucksville. “Rory isn’t here today. He’s our venom specialist. But I’m his back-up in that area.”
The young men stepped up to the First Aid plate to show their skills with a splint or a sling.
They pulled on the blue safety gloves to show how to handle a gash that leads to extreme bleeding or a broken leg on the trail. The guys from Troop 444 in Sweet Valley were one of the faster “rescue squads” when it came to stopping bleeding.
They answered key questions: Who do you call? When do you call?
“I liked the snake bites best,” said Joshua Orkwis, 12, of Pittston’s Troop 303. “You have to know a lot about snakes first. And then you try to figure out how to help the person who got the bite.”
Aside from the First Aid component of scouting, though, the kids were almost unanimous in their love for scouting.
“Scouting teaches you how to build better life skills,” said Justin Doran, 13, from Lehman.
Others like the camping and the trips.
“It’s a great learning experience,” said Aiden Jenkins, 12, from Troop 303.
“It’s fun when you learn new things along with your friends,” he said.
Although no one took home a trophy at the end of the day, each troop did receive a rescue blanket. The young men received event patches. Some scored First Aid merit badges. And the groups that got the best scores for their performances got banners to hang with their troop flags.
And bragging rights.
Only a few of Saturday’s Scouts are thinking about careers in the medical field. Most, because they’re pre-teens, haven’t begun to think that far into the future.
“I really want to be an electrical engineer,” said Matt Magnotta, 16, from Troop 155. “But being an EMT is a maybe. I do like it a lot.”
But it’s the life skill in helping to save lives that is really the prize, Diefenderfer said.
“First Aid is something required throughout the entire scouting program,” he said. “There is a lot to learn in scouting – leadership, cooperation, life skills. But if a scout can learn nothing else in the program, we want them to learn this. It’s something that carries through their lives. And it can save others.”
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