Joanna and Graham with their arms around each other in their garden

Joanna and Graham, © British Red Cross

On a quiet Sunday morning Joanna’s husband Graham’s heart suddenly stopped. He became unresponsive and stopped breathing. Luckily, Joanna knew what to do and used her first aid skills saved his life.

“My first thought was to run! My daughter was screaming. But then something kicked in and I knew what I had to do,” Joanna said.

“I asked my daughter to call an ambulance and put the phone on loud speaker. Then I sent her outside to wait for the ambulance.”

Luckily, Joanna had learned first aid so she knew how to help her husband.

“I started doing chest compressions (CPR) and the emergency call handler on the phone counted me through sets of 30,” she explained.

“You have to be quite rigorous when you’re doing them, going about a third of the way into the body.

“The ambulance arrived after about eleven minutes and the crew came in.

“I literally remember standing there. I knew my arms were so sore from doing the chest compressions.

“It was the most terrifying eleven minutes of my life, but I would do it again, and again and again.

“And not just for my husband, for anyone who needed it. Because no matter who needs help, someone loves that person, it’s someone’s husband or son or daughter.”

Learn how to restart a heart

If someone’s heart stops beating (called cardiac arrest) when they are not in hospital, they have less than a one-in-ten chance of surviving. We want to change that.

Chest compressions (CPR) when a person first stops breathing and using an AED (defibrillator) can massively increase survival rates.

Learning how to help someone whose heart has stopped could help you save someones life in an emergency, like Joanna did.

Whether you work at a school, or you want to learn with your colleagues or in your community, this is the time to get involved. You can share our guidance and educational video below, book a course or learn with our free smartphone first aid app.

As Joanna said, “When it comes to learning first aid, it doesn’t take long, and you never know when you’ll need it.”

“All my daughters have learned first aid now and they’ve got children of their own.

“So as a family we’re all committed to having these lifesaving skills should we ever need to help someone in an emergency.”

How to help someone who is unresponsive and not breathing

  1. Check breathing by tilting their head back and looking and feeling for breaths.
  2. Call 999 as soon as possible.
  3. Give chest compressions: push firmly downwards in the middle of the chest and then release. Continue to push this way at a regular rate until help arrives.

Want to learn more first aid?