Posted by: medicblog999 | May 9, 2009

Over to you! – Post 2

peopleThis weekends post comes to you from NickF who is a St John Volunteer in the Midlands in the UK.

Nick gives us a great insight into the impact that what we might see as a routine job, has on bystanders and first aiders who come forward to provide assistance when someone really needs them.

My Two Worlds Collided

I am a St John Ambulance volunteer from the midlands and had an experience I thought might be interesting to share.

I work in an office doing an everyday type of job but at weekends and evenings I provide first aid and ambulance cover for St John Ambulance, as a rule these two worlds are separate and distinct but one Monday morning they came together dramatically.

I was in my office tapping away on my computer when someone casually said to me “they might need you over the road” I looked out of the window and saw a woman lying on the ground with a few people around her. I said something along the lines of “she’s probably just fainted” but after watching for a few seconds I felt something was wrong and was on my toes down the stairs in record time. Just as I arrived an NHS rapid response car turned up – I identified myself to the Technician on board.

The patient by this time was wrapped in a beautiful red blanket (where the hell did that come from?) but nobody had started CPR. The woman with her said “she’s breathing a bit funny”, a quick look and I could see her breathing is agonal. The Tech. had got her grab bag and defib out by now, she started CPR and I set up the bag and mask and O2.

I took over CPR and ventilations and once the Tech. had got the defib set up she called out “she’s in VF, I’m going to shock” – think now Nick – O2 out of the way, stand clear. I began CPR and ventilations again as the ambulance turned up with a 3-person crew (including a Paramedic). One of the crew took over from me and I took a step back – the first thing the Paramedic said is “get me an OP Airway” – crap why hadn’t I thought of that?

They shocked her a couple of more times before putting her on the back of the ambulance and I assume started doing Paramedic things – I stood there for a while but everyone was busy and so I walked back across the road and went back to my desk and carried on what I was doing. A few people who saw what had happened came and asked how the lady was – “she should be fine”, I lied (let’s face it she was on the deck too long before CPR was started – wasn’t she?)

I know for a lot of you this would have been a routine job on a Monday morning but for me I was at work doing my “day job” when all of a sudden my St John world came rudely crashing in, apart from that it was my first resus.

It was surreal to be sat at work doing what I normally do, have 10 minutes of ambulance work, and then be back at work again. By lunchtime I was asking myself “did that really happen?”

Unfortunately as a “bystander” I have no idea to this day how the lady got on and I didn’t have a chance to speak to the crew because they were too busy to speak to me after my help was no longer needed.

A little later a colleague, with whom I have a lot of banter, came up to me and said he had always thought of my St John work as a bit of a geeky thing but having seen me assisting with the resus now views it in a completely different light – he said that he could never have done what I did and he thought it was amazing – I found this quite moving.

I have no real point to my story but it was something that happened and made me proud to have been able to help – I hope the lady lived, but suspect that she didn’t. I hope the crew appreciated the help from me – but I suspect they have forgotten what would be a routine job to them.


Great post Nick, and thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings with all of us. Personally, stories like this have made me change the way I try and do thinks when people offer assistance or have been providing care for the ill and injured before I actually get on scene. It takes no time to quickly say “thank you” to someone who has stepped up to help.

Last week I was sent to a cardiac arrest. i was working on the rapid response car and when I arrived on scene, an elderly lady was doing quite effective chest compression only CPR. She continued whilst I managed the airway and until the crew arrived a couple of minutes later. Once we took over fully she disappeared from the area, and I felt bad that I hadn’t had the opportunity to say thanks. The crew left scene with the patient and I was left to clear up the bomb site that is common place after an active resuss. Because I had the time, I went looking for her, found her and pointed out that in all probability, the fact that we were able to get the patients pulse back was down to her and her actions. I thanked her sincerely and said that any chance of survival the patient had was all down to her. She didn’t reply, just nodded her head, and appeared totally shocked by the situation, understandably. 

I hope she realised the difference she made,and Nick, I hope you realise the difference you made too!


As always, feel free to send any stories or tales into me at, for publication in the “Over to you” category at the weekends.


  1. I’m a CFR and the number of times I’m told something similar to “he said that he could never have done what I did and he thought it was amazing” when I tell people what I do in my spare time…

    They don’t understand what I get out of it.

    Well, that would be the fact that I’m incredibly interested in how we can help the human body repair itself.

    That I get a general warm glow when I know I did a little bit to help make someone better.

    That I get a HUGE buzz when I turn someone from blue to a more normal colour.

    That I get (frequently undeserved) respect from patients – so much so that my mere presence can start people feeling better, because they’re no longer alone with their medical problem.

    That I get the incredible privilege of working with my professional colleagues, and enjoying a laugh with them.

    I enjoy learning for its own sake, and I learn something from every call-out. When it helps someone as well, that’s even better.

  2. Here in the US, a lot of us medics work in the city and live out in the rural areas. I do, and therefore I volunteer as a paramedic and firefighter for my local department. It’s common for me to be schlepping about my normal day-to-day activities and then go screaming off in an ambulance or fire truck to do god knows what somewhere in our district.

    It’s become so common for me that I can’t imagine living in a place where I couldn’t volunteer. It’s a part of who I am now. I feel naked without a radio strapped to my hip.

    And yes, that might make me a geek

  3. A resus in the street is usually a really awkward thing for paramedics, with all the people wanting to stop and watch. Having an extra set of experienced hands to assist with continuous compressions is invaluable. It gives us the ability to focus on our airway or drugs, without having to stop compressions. I was also impressed that Johnnies can use a BVM, they probably can in Australia but I’ve never seen it happen. A lot of research also points to the fact that continuous compressions are paramount, so even if you can’t use a BVM jump in and perform compressions. Well done.

  4. Nice job Nick..I can assure you that the rapid response Tech appreciated your help, even if she didn’t get a chance to thank you. No-one likes to work alone on an arrest!

    By the way, the “magic red blanket fairy” exists world wide, she is also the one that finds the spoon to put in seizing (“fitting” to you Brits!)patients mouth before the ambulance gets there!

  5. Nick, too often we see people just standing watching. It’s good to see that there’s still a spirit amongst certain members of the general public that genuinely wants to help. You’re assistance may have made all the difference to the patient’s chances of survival. You might not know it, but your help really is appreciated by ambulance crews…. even if in the heat of the moment we don’t always remember to tell you so!

  6. Thanks to everyone for their comments.

    I have no problem with the fact that the crew did not have a chance to speak to me – they really were very busy trying to save this lady’s life. Now I have read my post again it may look as if I was I upset by the fact they didn’t speak to me, this was not what I meant.


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