Two young children are alone with their parent who has collapsed. They're in the remote countryside. It's dark, cold, wet and windy. The five year old boy knows they need help....but who from?
In activities built around a recent event, young people explore the dramatic choice the boy made. On the way they'll learn some first aid, identify skills they have to cope with a crisis and assess the value of a law that makes it a duty to help others.
By the end of this activity young people will be able to:
- Identify some of the options facing a young child alone with an unconscious parent, and assess which they think is most practical.
- Describe the different first aid responses to someone who is unconscious, depending on whether they are breathing or not.
Read out scene 1 below.
It's 10.30 pm on a January night. It's cold, windy and rainy. A five-year-old boy called Kevin is looking at his father, who has collapsed on the floor at home. He doesn't respond when Kevin tries to wake him. The only other person in the house is Kevin's two-year-old sister. Their mother is at work, around 16km away. Kevin cannot use a telephone.
Invite young people to listen, reflect, then respond with answers to two questions.
- What do you think Kevin should do?
- What do you think he did do?
After young people have had some time for personal thought, working in pairs or small groups, discuss the various contributions and responses to the questions. Is there broad agreement between the groups or significant differences in approach?
Talk about how decision-making can be affected during times of confusion and stress. Invite young people to give examples from their own lives when they had to make a rapid choice. In hindsight, was it a good one? What might they have done differently? What would they do next time?
Now read out scene 2.
It's shortly after 10.30 pm on a January night. It's cold, windy and rainy. A man is alone in his car, driving along a country road. He sees a little boy pedalling along the road on his bicycle. The boy is wearing pyjamas and flip-flops. It's clearly dangerous. The boy seems to be on his own.
Ask the same broad questions
- What do you think the driver of the car should do?
- What do you think he actually did?
Discuss young people's responses
- Is it obvious that the driver would stop to help?
- Are there any reasons why he might not? What if he was late for an urgent appointment? Or worried about how he might explain being with a young child late at night? Or if he just thought it was none of his business?
[As groups suggest reasons why the driver might not have stopped to help, note them on a flipchart. Make time to come back to them later to talk about how a decision not to help might have influenced events. Help young people overcome ‘barriers to action’ by identifying possible solutions. E.g. Barrier: he’s late for an urgent appointment. Solution: He stops to see if the child needs help and calls the person he’s due to be meeting to let them know he has been delayed.]
Explain what did happen.
Kevin, whose full name is Kévin-Djéné, lives near Mayenne – a small town in Brittany in France.
Kevin was found by a motorist late at night pedalling through the rain. He was going to get help for his 58-year-old father who had collapsed at home and was breathing but unconscious.
A local farmer, Jean-François Pinot, stopped his car to help. Kevin told him that he was going to find his mother who was at work because his father was dead.
Jean-François flashed down another motorist and together they called the police and emergency services, who traced Kevin's home.
His father wasn't dead, but had suffered a heart attack. He was later reported to be recovering in hospital.
Kevin had cycled around 3km before he was stopped.
Five-year-old Kevin was praised for his courage. His mother was very grateful to Jean-François, saying he helped save not only her husband's life but her son's too.
Look back at some of the suggestions made after the first discussion where groups identified different possible responses and ways of getting help. Analyse them together. You could use the questions below to structure the discussion.
- Were they good suggestions?
- Would they have been more or less likely to have a good outcome?
- What would young people have done in that situation?
The journalist who wrote the story said that Kevin set off on his bike, "plein de courage", literally "full of courage".
How do you imagine Kevin might have felt? Who thinks he would be dogged, determined, in good spirits? Who imagines him shocked and alone, battling to overcome his fear in the dark and rain?
What personal experience can young people draw on of being alone and uncertain with a major problem. Did you react as you might be expected to? How easy is it to predict how any individual will respond to a crisis?
To conclude the exercise, ask young people to think about a skill or a quality that they have that would enable them get help and make quick decisions a crisis. They could do this as an individual activity or in pairs.
Breathing or not breathing
Kevin's father is in hospital recovering from his heart attack. He was found unconscious and breathing.
If he had not been breathing, it is unlikely that the outcome would have been so good. Experts estimate that for every minute that passes without chest compressions, the probability of someone surviving and being discharged from hospital decreases by up to ten per cent.
So after ten minutes survival rates are very low. That's why there is such urgency to find out if someone is breathing and, if they aren't, to carry out chest compressions without delay and carry on with them till help arrives.
Show the two short videos about how to help someone who is unconscious and breathing and unconscious and not breathing.
Then use this mini quiz to check young people's knowledge and confidence to help. Then if you have time you can extend and build on it.
Q1. What is the key action to take if someone is unconscious and breathing?
Q2. What is the key action to take if someone is unconscious and not breathing?
Q3. What is the point of chest compressions - what do they do?
Q4. What are chest compressions also sometimes called?
A1. Move them onto their side and tilt their head back.
A2. Start chest compressions. Push firmly downwards in the middle of the chest and then release.
A3. To keep blood pumping around the person's body.
A4. CPR, which stands for cardio-pulmonary resuscitation.
In both scenarios it is essential to get help as quickly as possible by calling 999.
Are young people confident about when to call 999?
Help them learn more with our 999 resource and our first aid learning for young people teaching package.
If someone is unconscious and not breathing, why is it important to call 999 before starting chest compressions?
[Calling 999 ensures help is on the way. Chest compressions keep the brain and vital organs supplied with blood and oxygen until help arrives.]
An obligation to help
Jean-François Pinot stopped his car to help Kevin. He told reporters that French law required him to help under those circumstances.
Discuss the idea behind such so-called Good Samaritan laws, named after a story in the Christian bible. Identify the pros and cons. Who thinks such a law in the UK might make people help each other more? Or is this not a problem that needs fixing? How might it feel to be helped by someone who doesn't feel able to help, but is just doing what the law says?
Discuss whether it is the law, a person's attitude or particular circumstances that most determine whether someone helps or not.
Do young people feel helping others is important? Do they think everyone should get help if they need it? Discuss different ways of providing help from calling the emergency service, to giving first aid to offering comfort and reassurance.
This resource was written by PJ White of Alt62 and published in January 2016.