Volunteering Unplugged

Obama-action1With the world as we know it falling to pieces in a consumerist environmental apocalypse from which even Superobama can’t save us, volunteers are more important now than ever.

Seek has a great new philanthropic job search feature for prospective volunteers. They’ve also set up a blog for people to submit stories about their favorite volunteering experience. Julian Cole volunteered his skills to Volunteering Unplugged and submitted his story. Gavin Heaton worked with Vibewire to develop their online and business strategy, which inspired me to do the same in a film production capacity. But I thought I’d share an old volunteering story from when I was a St John’s volunteer medic while studying biochemistry at the University of Queensland.

I had a lot of fun and a few wacky experiences as a St John’s volunteer medic. Drinking rum and milk with diggers after the ANZAC parade, patching up scraped knees at kids’ soccer games and talking down bad trips at music festivals. They trained me up and set me loose in all sorts of war zones.

I was a naive kid, wet behind my St John’s ears at Livid music festival in Brisbane 1997. We had two first aid tents and a van, yet were completely inundated with under aged over drinkers, brawlers and self-inflicted casualties. Rather than doing a run-of-the-mill stage dive, one man had the Icarian ambition to climb into the ceiling of a hall and jump into the crowd from 8 metres up. Quite sensibly, the crowd parted rather than absorb the impact his head and right shoulder would instead sustain. That kept the first aid van busy with a potential spinal trauma, so the tent I was posted to got their “referrals”.

I got a call to take a first aid kit out on some vaguely specified reason and destination. I found a forty year old man clutching his ear. I immediately assumed a case of cabbage ear, common in mosh pits when heads have a tendency to impact neighboring heads. He pulled a filthy rag away from what remained of his ear. Like something out of a cartoon, there were distinct teeth marks from which a few arteriole squirts of blood issued. I could only clean and dress the wound, he needed to go to the tent where we were better equipped. On the walk he told me he’d been jumped by some men and beaten, one of whom must have been a little hungry.

When we got to the busy tent, earless bellowed expletives and rushed at a man being treated inside. The two locked in combat brought part of the tent down, landing over an unconscious inebriate and alarming a girl I’d previously been trying to convince of the benefit of living, despite powerful hallucinogens convincing her otherwise. Myself and the district captain hauled earless off the other guy, who had a conspicuous hole in his cheek. It turned out earless was also guilty of a little cannibalism, but I never found out who bit who first. There was no way to stop them fighting, so I had to take earless to another first aid post, the closest being the van.

A black plume of smoke was a bad omen. Upon reaching the van, earless and I found out that in treating the roof jumping spinal case, no one remembered to run the engine so the van wouldn’t excessively drain its battery. When a lead-acid battery discharges it produces hydrogen gas. A rapid discharge can yield a combustible quantity of hydrogen, in this case exploding under the bonnet and setting the whole van on fire.

By this time I couldn’t help but see earless as a VERY bad omen. I walked him out of the festival grounds, put him in a taxi and instructed the driver to take him to the nearest hospital.

I loved volunteering for the St John’s ambulances. They train you in advanced first aid, send you to all kinds of interesting events and there’s great camaraderie among volunteers. Probably not ideal for the squeamish though.This site proudly supports Volunteering Unplugged


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