Thanks To A Bystander

“Funny place to be drunk…”, I said.

We were being sent to a 'Not breathing' at one of the bridges around my patch. Most 'not breathing' calls to public places are drunks, but this one didn't 'smell' right. Sure, there is a pub underneath the bridge, but there was something about it that made me think that it might be genuine.

It doesn't make a difference to my driving what I'm thinking – I'll get there as quickly and safely as I can, even if I know it's one of our local drunks.

The bridge is a dual carriageway with a divider down the middle and as we approached we could see them on the other side of the road – there were a few cars parked there and a person standing there waved at us as we drove past. He didn't look too bothered.

We spun around the roundabout at the end (narrowly missing some idiot who not only doesn't know how to give way at a roundabout, but jumps out on ambulances that are all lit up) and approached the two parked cars.

It immediately struck me that there was a man laying his back, with another man doing very effective CPR on him. Looks like the call was a genuine one!

I stopped the ambulance and told my mate to grab the 'shock box' and look after the patient; I would get the trolley off the back of the ambulance and we would 'scoop and run'.

The patient had been a passenger in his son's car, then he had suddenly collapsed. The son had pulled over to find that his father didn't have a pulse. A man driving behind them had stopped to offer some assistance. He'd recognised what was wrong and had started the heart massage.

By the time I'd managed to get the trolley and maneuver it through the traffic (which was whizzing dangerously close to us) my crewmate, who has been out of training school for less than a year, had diagnosed the patient's heart rhythm and had given him a 'shock'.

It was about then that another ambulance and an Emergency Care Practitioner arrived. We loaded the patient onto the ambulance and started some advanced techniques. I kept bouncing up and down on the patient's chest.

Then the patient got their pulse back!

And he started breathing!

Time to drive to hospital…

When we got to the hospital the patient was given a good chance of surviving his 'death' – he has the best chance an outdoor cardiac arrest ever has. While what we did was important it was the man who was driving behind the patient, stopped his car, pulled the patient out and performed very effective heart massage for the eight minutes it took us to get there.

…and… while I may often gently mock the St. John ambulance service – the man who was doing all this was one of their members.

So if the patient survives, and he has a pretty good chance, it'll all be because of the help that bystander gave. Unfortunately I was too busy to tell our good samaritan this – so with a bit of luck someone who reads this might know him and pass on my thanks. He deserves to know what an effect he had on this patient.

Of course now I'll get a reputation for being soft on the 'Johnnies'…

39 thoughts on “Thanks To A Bystander”

  1. Given that even my local shopping centre has them, it would seem that could be a not entirely trivial case made for lifeboats…Muppetman

  2. Is there a same style rift between the LAS & the Red Cross? They cover a lot of events in my area and seem to get along with the crews

  3. Just because the weather can be to unpleasant to use it, doesn't mean that the defibrillator can't be carried for when the patient is dry and on water flat as a millpond.Isn't learning when not to use “just a training issue”?

  4. Its good when the outcome is “not dead” big pats on the backs all round I think, including the anonymous “Johnny” how many other people would have stopped to help I wonder, most would probably continue whizzing past oblivious to what was occurring.

  5. I know enough to realise that this may be a dangerous question to ask but…why the rift between the LAS and the 'Johnnies'? Or could you at least point me somewhere which will explain? Don't entirely understand! (I might end up doing fundraising for St John's over the summer and all…)

  6. its a long a complicated answer, i'll tell you about one of the main ones.The strikes of the 80 where the sja members where used by management to screw over the LAS crews, when they where trying to get the pay they deserve.

  7. Sending a telepathic pat on the back to the bystander, I am sure the StJA is a small enough world for the man to get hear of youre appreciation, and you would hope the press officer was on the ball! (I.e. reading the right blogs!)It must be quite tough for people who stop to help and then know no more about the casualties condition (recovery or otherwise) once the ambulance doors have shut. I appreciate that crews often dont know how the patient has faired once they are admitted to hospital, and that is part of the job; but for a member of the public who has stepped forward, out their comfort zone, to a pretty scary place and given it their best. It is the sort of stuff that rattles round in their heads long after the event. Did I do OK, could I have done more?

  8. Some Johnnies do know what they are doing. LAS, you are the experts, we are the concerned (and hopefully, effective) amateurs who work alongside you not as replacements for you.Isn't it time this rift was healed? It was a long time ago and things need to move on.

  9. Tom,A great story, very exciting to bring him back. This has never happened to me. I like to think we can achieve good effective CPR, however, we carry no defib on the lifeboat so really stand no chance……would you agree? (I think we should carry them by the way so bit of an axe to grind!)

    Regards

    John

  10. Like Dave said. It's starting to fade a little, but a lot of the 'old hands' have stories of StJA walking on station thinking that they were the bee's knees.Me? I could care less.

  11. John, Might it be something to do with the large amounts of water present – if you defib someone while they are wet it (a) won't work, and (b) would be a danger to people standing around on the deck.That's the only reason that I can think of besides local 'politics'…

  12. I don't think so. I've not seen evidence of it at least. I mean, to be fair we are civil to most of the StJA. But there is that ambulance cynicism of wondering why someone would volunteer to do a job that we get paid for.That and StJA get to go to concerts…

  13. after 20 years in st john i've seen the realtionship with mras go from good to bad and back again.at the moment its good and we provide support when needed including after hours transport.we don't want to take over we just want to help people same as you.i've been in that bystanders position only mine didn't make it(too much damage)the ambulance personel were great good handover and thanks.if you think all our duties are fun try sitting in an indoor equestrian arena for 5 hours in winter and its actually colder inside than out.please let the feud go chances are half the people involved are no longer in st john.we even share duties with the red cross in our area

  14. there is that ambulance cynicism of wondering why someone would volunteer to do a job that we get paid for.SJA get to go to concerts…

    Think to some extent you've answered your own question 😉

  15. I was part of a crew who was covering a well known Spring show and we were 'guests' to the Red Cross, who had set up a lovely little make shift hospital.They fed and watered us – they were really hospitable.

    I turned to one of them and said “I'm very impressed at the set up and we all knew that St. John were much more organised than us NHS”.

    From then on I was ignored by the majority of volunteers who were there!

    Ooops!

  16. Lifeboatjohnhowever, we carry no defib on the lifeboat so really stand no chance……would you agree? (I think we should carry them by the way so bit of an axe to grind!)

    Lifeboatjohn, It may be something to do with the risk assessment, how do you safely do the EVERYBODY STAND CLEAR and deliver a shock in a force nine gale?

    Scary, good job you wear wellingtons!!

  17. yeah tell me about it, best way would be to become a cfr and get teh defib, then take it on the boat ;)have done cpr 2 times in anger once while on the boat.

    been saying about the need for a defib for a while now, but water+electric and also the sensitive componants on teh boat seem to be winning the battle.

  18. I volly on the frontline ambulance with St John Ambulance New Zealand (provider of >85% of emergency response in NZ).I get a bit of variation in my week, free qualifications, important skills and enjoy testing myself. Plus get a chance to make a difference for people and be exposed to more interesting situations than the typical day.

    Sounds like a reasonable deal to me 🙂

  19. Quite alot of people in LAS (and poss others I guess) will just be anti-anything-that's-going, which is a shame.I just judge each by their own, it's better.

  20. Plus, the sensitive nature of the Defib itself! I hate to think what type of rythmn the Defib would detect due to the rocking nature of the boat, waves, etc. ;-)Congrats to the anonymous Johnny on scene – sounds like another great example of how St John and LAS work together. We provide what care we can, in whatever capacity we can, until the pro's turn up.

    Cheers for a 'happy' sorry Tom!

    Regards

    Nick

    http://nickhough.blogspot.com

  21. Dewi and LifeboatjohnSorry, I didnt mean to sound quite so flippant :o) I just had a very strong mental image of a storm tossed lifeboat. I suppose at sea (off shore) just as in the mountains, the chain of survival is weakened by the difficulties of getting the patient to hospital quickly; but far better a weak chain than no chain.

  22. Yes, we are in a potentially wet environment, but, we mostly pick up dry casualties and mostly can get them into the dry wheelhouse. To take an example, last year we had a fellow who thought he had indigestion on his yacht but called for help. We arrived and he was sat on deck flashing his torch and talking into his VHF to guide us to him. We came alongside, he walked on board, I escorted him into the wheelhouse, he turned grey, then green, then collapsed onto the deck. He was unconcious, not breathing and clearly no circulation. We started CPR but it took us 1/2 an hour to rv with an ambulance. They had a cardiac massage machine thingy and defib……..all to no avail. I suspect that he would have died whatever we did, however, I would have liked to have been able to give him a better chance by trying a defib earlier.You are right, saltwater and electrics don't go well together but we can keep them apart…..

    Cheers

    John

  23. Inspiring story. We were taught on our life support courses that it is worth knowing because there is a high probability that if you are ever called upon to do it (especially if not in health care) it will be on someone you know/someone you are related to.Nice to know it sometimes works.

  24. I suppose if the LAS wasn't underfunded and therfore understaffed, there would be no need for the volunteer sector. But we do not live in a perfect world.

  25. Quite, I feel we ought to have the kit and be trained to spot when it is and when it isn't safe to use.Risk assesments on lifeboats have to be very dynamic and of course the risk can rarely be entirely erradicated…..I guess that is the nature of the beast….we go out when others are coming home.

  26. You're a St Johns???? I can't believe I just read that. We're in an organisation called St JOHN Ambulance. There's no S on the end. And we're not bloody saints, no matter how jumped up some of the officers may be!I understand to some extent why the LAS don't like us Johnnies, and I understand even further why they don't like PAS (like my old employer), but I am pleased to say that about 75% of the LAS teams I have worked with / alongside have been utterly professional and lovely people. Particularly the staff at B6, E2 and C2. (Sorry Tom, I know you're East, but I've never worked out there!)

    Congratulations to the SJA volunteer who started CPR, it proves what I've been saying for years: if you practise it regularly in the classroom, it all comes together out in the field. I proved it the first time I did resus (which was in an LAS truck!!). Which is one of the reasons I now teach it for a living.

    There has already been an e-mail to the SJA Members' e-mail list, congratulating said anonymous Johnny on his efforts.

  27. Yep, Im also SJA. Im 18 (young and niave) and i gotta admit even i can see the absolute pointlessness of letting something that happened nearly 20 years ago affect our relation with any statuory ambulance service. As Ambunick says were not the pros, everyone who i have come into contact with (Within SJA) has never thought otherwise. Mind you i cant speak for the whole country. Like any organisation we have our faults. Probably some more than others, purely because we take anyone on Which aint so great). but were coming into our own and fighting our corner. Everyone pulls there weight and we all do ok, and I completely appreicate that the guys in the LAS are severely under paid and under appreciated…its just sas. Anyways thats just my (Young) opinion.

  28. With that in mind, it's not just LAS then. It's every single ambulance service in the country!Of course, without the voluntary sector, what would these little fete's etc do about First Aid cover? Pay for an Ambulance Service vehicle to attend? Is that not overkill?

    I'm sorry, but the voluntary sector does not exist purely because the pro's are underfunded, we exist because there is a requirement for us to exist.

    Regards

    Nick

    http://nickhough.blogspot.com

  29. Hi Tom. Read the book, now regular reader of the blog.. ..nice.I'm also a volunteer, but not with the St John(s) or BRC, i'm a Welsh Ambulance Service trained 'Community 1st Responder' (CFR's) – used in the local community to assist on (mainly) red calls that would appear to be 'within' 5 miles of our 'centre'.

    I joined the scheme because (I) I hate to 'stand by and do nothing' and (ii) I (and others) saw it as a way of helping people in communities.

    Even though the desire is there, personally I could not afford to take a drop from my current pay to commence training as a Tech so this is probably the nearest i'm going to get to helping people.

    that's why some people do it as a volunteer

    But I make an effort to make sure that I distinguish myself from crews to the patient(s) and stand back 'ready to assist' when the crews arrive..

  30. but comments like “while I may often gently mock the St. John ambulance service” and “Of course now I'll get a reputation for being soft on the 'Johnnies'… ” don't help in any reconciliation,do they?Would you have been as discriminatory if the first aider had been a member of Red Cross or St Andrews? Or no VAS at all?

  31. St John Ambulance's mission statement is that everyone should receive first aid when they need it,and that no one should suffer because of a lack of trained first aiders (or something like that).That is the basis on which they provide an ambulance service – whether it is at a prearranged event, assisting the statuary ambulance service with PTS at evenings and weekends, providing backup during a major incident, or covering during strike action.

    The role in strike action cover is entirely non-partisan. They support neither the employees nor the employers. They are just there to transport people who need an ambulance.

    having said that, while I can't speak for LAS, in my own area the sympathies of most SJ members I knew during the 1980's strikes were very much with the employees.

  32. Oh I'll mock everyone and anyone if I have the chance…But seriously…

    Hardly discriminatory when I'm saying that the fella did a good job am I?

    Like everything else I treat people as I find them. This guy did a bloody good job and I was glad that he was there using his skills, I also thought that it deserved telling people how well he'd done.

    Hell, one of my best friends is a coloured Johnny.

    *Grin*

  33. Hi Tom. Read the book, now regular reader of the blog.. ..nice.I'm also a volunteer, but not with the St John(s) or BRC, i'm a Welsh Ambulance Service trained 'Community 1st Responder' (CFR's) – used in the local community to assist on (mainly) red calls that would appear to be 'within' 5 miles of our 'centre'.

    I joined the scheme because (I) I hate to 'stand by and do nothing' and (ii) I (and others) saw it as a way of helping people in communities.

    Even though the desire is there, personally I could not afford to take a drop from my current pay to commence training as a Tech so this is probably the nearest i'm going to get to helping people.

    that's why some people do it as a volunteer

    But I make an effort to make sure that I distinguish myself from crews to the patient(s) and stand back 'ready to assist' when the crews arrive..

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