Skills that could save a life
The charity St John Ambulance has launched a hard-hitting campaign depicting five common scenarios in which first aid could have been the difference between a life lost and a life saved. here JENNY CORNISH finds out how it can be the simple things which m
ASURVEY carried out by St John Ambulance revealed some shocking statistics about our first aid knowledge – or lack of it.
In the East of England, the charity found that more than half of the people surveyed wouldn’t feel confident trying to save a life, while nearly a quarter would do nothing and wait for an ambulance to arrive or hope that a passer-by knows first aid,
The people who would know, of course are those trained by St John, and the charity is determined to teach these vital first aid skills to as many people as possible.
Kevin Goddard (49), from Stilton, is the superintendent of the charity’s Peterborough division, which has about 25 volunteers and a similar number of young cadets.
He says even very basic skills can help save someone’s life.
“What I usually say to people is if they just remember to put someone in the recovery position and keep the airway open, that will save someone’s life,” he said.
Mr Goddard, who works as a production manager in a brickyard, has been a firstaider since 1989 and has been in St John Ambulance for 11 years.
He got involved when his son was born. “It was just to give me that bit of extra knowledge in case anything happened,” he said.
“There’s a wide cross-section of people that come, we’ve got from young to old, businessmen to labourers, people who want to put something back, people who want to keep their skills up.
“Some want a basic understanding of first aid, some want a full-blown ambulance qualification, some are quite happy just to do fund-raising.
“It’s not going to be for every person, but come along and do as little or as much as you want and see how you get on. It really depends where you want to go with it.”
St John Ambulance volunteers turn up at a wide range of public events as well as carrying out training sessions with members of the public.
“The things we do are very varied – it depends on the level of your qualifications,” said Mr Goddard.
“We’ve got things like the Green Festival, which will require first-aiders, right up to backing up the NHS with our ambulance crews. We also do training commercially and voluntarily for the community.
“The basic members have a general understanding of first aid. Then that goes right up to members who are qualified to do patient transfer and emergency work.
“We’ve got a fleet of ambulances that can back up the NHS, mainly for GP urgent calls, if the GP goes round and says you need to go to hospital, we would do that. We could be asked to transfer patients from hospital to home or back up a paramedic.
“When there were the 7-7 bombings, we were put on high alert and the London crews would have gone along to help.
“We could be asked to cover the East of England Show, or the Great Eastern Run. The NHS was stretched through the winter period so we would take the low priority casualties and leave them to do the emergency work.”
Carole Pell (50), from Peterborough, has been in St John Ambulance for more than 12 years.
She worked as a clerk in the crown court until she began working for the organisation full-time earlier this year as the county secretary and membership coordinator.
In her voluntary role, Mrs Pell is the assistant county child and vulnerable adult officer. St John Ambulance is practically in the blood – her mother and father were members and her daughters have also been involved in the organisation.
Mrs Pell says she also joined after her children were born as she wanted to improve her first aid skills.
“I believe very strongly in the roles that we fulfil and I want to do my best to make a difference for people,” she said. “We definitely know that we can make so much difference to people’s lives. I think first aid skills should be taught in all schools. Even something as simple as putting someone into the recovery position can mean the difference between life and death.
“I’ve taught schoolchildren, young children, how to put someone in the recovery position – even a young child can move a fully grown adult into the recovery position, no problem.”
She remembers very clearly one incident from the East of England Showground many years ago.
“I came across somebody who was having a heart attack,” she said. “I was in the right place at the time and I knew exactly what was needed.
“Fortunately he was still conscious. I quickly diagnosed what was wrong with him and called for advanced care. We had an ambulance crew on site and a doctor. The doctor gave him clot-busting drugs and we got him into hospital straight away. I did what I could and the gentleman survived.”
However, the help the volunteers give isn’t always as dramatic. “Sometimes it’s just a lot of reassurance, sometimes it’s just putting a plaster on for someone,” said Mrs Pell.
The training is also a very important part of the role. “We’re committed to training as many members of the public as we can,” she said.
“We trained a group of driving instructors recently and now if they’re out on a driving lesson and they come across a road accident, they might be the ones that can preserve someone’s life until the emergency services arrive.”
Jamie Adams, from Peterborough, is 32 now and has been a member of St John Ambulance since he was nine years old.
EXTRA KNOWLEDGE: Kevin Goddard, who is the superintendent of the Peterborough division, was inspired to join after his son was born. (METP-08-0810AS103)