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A real life story

This account is written by a member of the public that attended a Heartstart course, and then found themself having to put those skills to use in a real life emergency.

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In the summer of 2021, I found myself working in the large garden of a house where some outside painting was taking place. It was a warm summer’s day and the painters had just taken a mid-morning break, laughing and joking. The owner of the house had been out to deal with one or two queries and source an extension cable…My memory is that we were all working, enjoying being outside in the summer, and the atmosphere felt good.

Within 20 mins or so I heard one of the workers call out from the top of the scaffold tower that went up to the first-floor windows. I assumed it was something to do with the extension cable – passing it up, or plugging something in. So, I went over and from the bottom of the ladder couldn’t see the man/ men at the top. I went up the ladder and as I did so the younger worker shouted ‘call an ambulance!’ I knew that I had no cover in that section of the garden so went straight to the front door to ask the owners to call 999…

I headed back up the ladder and helped the young guy carry out CPR on his workmate who would have been about 60 years old. The young guy had managed to move his workmate from one level to another, I think, on the scaffold decking and there wasn’t a lot of room. The young guy certainly gave the impression that he knew what he was doing. He also had the physical strength that would have been needed to manoeuvre D’s body into a position where CPR could be carried out. I hadn’t seen the start of the incident…

As I settled alongside both men on the scaffold deck the owner came up the ladder and handed me the mobile with the emergency services already on line. The young guy carried on with the CPR and the emergency services person on the phone – with phone on loudspeaker – talked directly to the young man to check, guide, advise, support. One of the questions was ‘is there someone there who can take over from you?’ and so that was when I started doing the chest compressions. There was the constant guidance of the operator on the phone. This was extremely reassuring. After a period (I have no idea how long – 3 or 4 minutes?) we swapped again.

I observed from the scaffold deck how 2 x ambulance arrived almost at the same time, followed by a fire engine. Within the next 3 or 4 minutes an air ambulance came over, hovered briefly, and landed nearby. The memory of all this is marked above all by two things – the completely surreal sense that this had happened and now the only goal was to help this man. The other thing was a sense of absolute wonder at how, within 10-15 minutes I think, 4 x different teams of emergency services had been able to reach us – a pretty rural location in the Winchester area. As soon as the ambulance staff got up the ladder they took over and it was needed to get off the tower to reduce the weight on it.

I’m writing this well over a year later. The memory is still clear. Although everyone involved played a part and was in their own way essential to the man’s eventual recovery, I wonder how successfully the rescue operation would have gone if I had been alone on the tower.

The young man acted superbly, seemingly knowing what to do, having the strength to physically do it, and perhaps in a large sense was fortunate that someone – me – just happened to be nearby.

It stuns me to think how, in a different place or different moment, there might not have been the resources or the time that would have been needed to save D.

I have an overwhelming sense that the support and guidance - via the technology of the mobile phone - was absolutely key in guiding us through effectively. But what if...the mobile reception there/ in that area had been poor, or inconsistent? What if the owner had been out? What if his own phone had been…out of battery or in the car or…??

I was left with a reminder of how fine the line is between…life and losing life.

The speed with which the emergency services arrived was stunning.

To see them in action as I stood on the sidelines after coming down the ladder…was hard – and is hard – to put into words.

…about 16 months before this happened I signed up to do a HeartStart course in Old Alresford Hants, run by Dave Williamson. I said and wrote at the time that it was the best course that I’ve ever done. There’s no question that the skills themselves are vital, but it was really the care & skill with which the course was delivered – on a human and professional level – that made it stand out.

The basic skills training from that evening gave me - deep down or at the back of my mind – an amount of added confidence or ability that was part of the process of helping save a person from passing away.

I’m a person who often tends to underestimate my own abilities…and the incident also left me with this sense of shock – a list of what ifs. What if the same situation happened again? How would I handle it? Crucially, I had the sense that I need to go back and refresh my knowledge and above all skills to remain ‘ready’ to respond. My fear was that knowing what to do would become harder and harder as time went by.

Book your free training with Heartstart, or a refresher course. You never know when the skills you learn will need to be put into practice.


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