This blog is probably more for my benefit than anything else. According to psychologists, writing about an event is better than talking about it, so this is my therapy.
I pulled a dying man from his car and tried to revive him with CPR. After a total of 30 minutes advanced life support, the on-scene doctor called it. He died on scene, and was 86 years old.
Looking back on the whole event, I have a mixture of thoughts and feelings. My prayers are with the family (his wife was also in the accident but wasn’t too serious) and the other driver (again, not too serious). Two families now have to deal with some significant pain, grief, guilt and loss all from an event that happened in the blink of an eye. I feel for them, I really do.
I wished I could have saved that man (as I am sure all the team that arrived and helped do). Unfortunately, it was not like ER or Mission Impossible where a bang on the chest or a few breaths through the face mask brings him back. It was real life and, on this occasion, he died.
I also feel a sense of pride in what I did. Some have called me a ‘hero’. I am not sure that I fit that description at all. I don’t feel like one. But I do feel proud, both of what I did, but also the team that assembled on site and the willingness of people to get involved.
Here’s what happened: last Monday, I was driving home near Formby when the traffic started to congest, and I quickly saw the reason why – there had been an accident involving two cars. A few years ago, I would have done what most other drivers were doing at that stage; I would have slowed and had a look but kept driving as I wouldn’t have been any help to anyone.
This time was different though. I am a volunteer with the British Red Cross and have been for almost two years. I wanted to learn first aid because I knew that, as a parent, my first aid skills were practically non-existent – so I have spent the last two years learning first aid (and emergency first aid) through the fantastic guys at the Red Cross who provide immense training, often at their own personal cost.
I pulled alongside the accident and saw people on their phones, but no ambulance as of yet. I stopped my car and went over to see the driver who was being looked after by an off-duty police lady. The passenger in the car was his wife. She was being looked after by a passer-by and was conscious at least; the driver wasn’t. He was the most critical so I focused on him. At the same time, a nurse arrived who was on a passing bus. She worked in A&E.
First, I asked a (very strong-looking) bystander to help by holding the gentleman’s head as still as possible. The police lady had the signs of a weak pulse. I checked his chest, he was not breathing. After looking at other possibilities, we made the decision to take him out of the car (something you don’t do if a casualty is breathing) and start CPR. The ambulance would be several minutes before arriving on scene.
The bystander kept the man’s head supported, and I pulled him out of the car with the help of the nurse and police lady. At this point, no one cared about titles or rank, we just wanted to help this guy.
The nurse started compressions, and I had the head-end with the face mask doing the rescue breaths. Complete strangers were working a team, and communication was clear and effective. No one in the team panicked, we were calm and doing well. It is not what I expected. We continued CPR. The paramedics arrived and we all carried on, still working as a team – but the team was bigger now and we had the right equipment.
Some anaesthetists were on their way home had also stopped. They joined the ever-growing team of medical professionals, St John’s Ambulance and Red Cross volunteers. I’ve no doubt that the gentleman had the best medical care around him at this point. I had stopped the rescue breaths and breathing was now done with a resus-bag. I went to check on the passenger.
She had concussion and was very dazed. She was being looked after by someone I later learned is also a Red Cross volunteer, Paul, who had just moved to the area. The fireman gave me a collar and I put it on the lady whilst Paul explained what was happening. We then lifted her out of the car and on to a spinal board. She was taken to the ambulance and I went back to help with the driver.
The CPR carried on for another 15 minutes. The doctor was on scene, and they did all they could. But eventually – it was called. The doctor, after consulting with all the other medics, marked the time of death at 16:50. The CPR stopped, he had died a while ago and we couldn’t bring him back. The eyes were closed and I helped lift him onto the stretcher and we put a blanket over him. We then got him on to the ambulance.
It was over.
The air ambulance had also arrived at some point during these events. There were fire trucks, police and ambulances everywhere. The road was closed and I stood there in the middle of the scene just looking at the extent of what was happening. It was amazingly calm, despite all the people, and for the first time I stood in the middle of the collective efforts of our emergency services. I couldn’t have been prouder of what they were doing. They are all amazing people.
On the way home, I thought about the whole event. I was pleased with what I had done, and what we had done. I didn’t come away with any regrets about the care we gave that man. I called my first aid trainer, told him what had happened and thanked him for all his efforts in training me. He should take credit for that.
Who are the heroes?
I think the emergency services are heroes, they put themselves into these situations time and again to help us. They are amazing and do a fantastic job. I think the police woman was a hero, the lady that was comforting the passenger was a hero, the A&E nurse who jumped of a bus was a hero, the by-stander who helped was a hero, the people that called the ambulance were heroes. They all played their part to the best of their ability and were willing to help and get involved.
For me that makes them amazing people who can feel pleased with what they did, despite the outcome. Beyond that, there are the first aid trainers that helped me know what to do in situations like this and the supporters who support the British Red Cross to make that possible.
I love the Red Cross strategy of resourcing everyone so that they know what to do in a crisis. Can I encourage you to think about supporting or getting involved with the Red Cross? Next time you could be driving by. Would you keep driving, or would you stop, get involved and make a difference? For me, that is what a hero does.