First-aid-and-whisky-BLOGI almost died when I was 40 seconds old.

Seriously. That’s not just some snappy opening line carefully crafted to grab your attention; I genuinely did the whole ‘not-breathing-starting-to-turn-blue’ scenario before the umbilical cord had even been cut.

And guess what? A little basic first aid knowledge saved my life.

Here’s how it happened: I was born in our front room with only my Dad and a mid-wife present – I think my Mum might have been there too – and, once I’d popped out and they smacked my bum, I didn’t oblige with the usual coughing and breathing routine.

Getting a bit panicky, the mid-wife lifted young infant Cox (all six pounds, six ounces) by the feet and started shaking me like a rag-doll, but I only started to turn blue.

‘Sudden coughing’

Thankfully, my Dad – always fond of a tipple – had saved a little bit of whisky for a celebratory schnifter after I was born.

Spying the bottle, the mid-wife told my Dad to quickly hand it over, which he did (I hope not too reluctantly). She poured the whisky over her finger and shoved it down my throat.

For a moment, I instinctively started sucking – then suddenly coughed and began bawling loudly enough to wake the neighbours three doors away.

Looking back at this frightening little scenario just a few – ahem – years later, what strikes me is how well our mid-wife, a family friend, embodied the key qualities of emergency first aid: remember your training, keep calm, act quickly.

Keep your cool

My Dad says all he can really remember is a sense of blind panic and powerlessness, of things twisting away out of control.

Imagine the terrible pressure facing our mid-wife: a new-born baby, still attached to its mother, quickly slipping away in the small living room of a terraced house with no real medical equipment to hand.

The temptation to just throw her hands up and scream must have been there, but apparently she stayed dead calm throughout.

As a writer for the Red Cross, this is what I hear time and again when interviewing those who have saved lives or helped badly injured people: ‘The training just kicked in’, they’ll say, or ‘I suddenly felt calm and knew what I had to do’.

It pays to know

By taking a Red Cross first aid course, you could also quickly pick up the core first aid skills and learn how to save a life.

And, it’s worth remembering, statistically speaking it’s most likely to be your own nearest and dearest needing your help in an emergency.

Incidentally, forty-odd years later I’m a teetotaller. I hate beer, detest wine (vinegar by another name, in my book), go queasy at the smell of vodka or gin and haven’t been drunk since I was sixteen years old.

But there is one tipple I do still enjoy a glass of every Christmas. You guessed it – life-saving whisky.

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