25 September 2009
During an eventful South African holiday, Chris Venville – who had just completed a first aid course – had to treat herself following a dog attack and ended up saving her tour guide’s life.
The 59-year-old school secretary, who has been in charge of first aid at Aberaeron Comprehensive School in Wales for 18 years, went on a Red Cross first aid refresher course just two days before the holiday in mid-August.
On the third day of their dream trip, Chris and husband Nigel were staying with relatives when she was bitten in the face by a family dog.
She recalled: “One of them snapped at me, and caught my cheek and lip. While all around me were panicking – apart from my husband – I stayed calm, staunched the bleeding with a clean tea towel and took steps to prevent myself going into shock while arrangements were being made to get me to hospital for stitches – 26 in total!”
The following day, shaken but determined to carry on, Chris and Nigel joined their tour as planned – and immediately bonded with their tour guide Jan (61), who paid extra attention to Chris because of her injury.
However, just days later – as the group left a museum – the first aider was again called upon to act. She recalled: “One of the attendants suddenly shouted: ‘Come! Come!’. We raced over and saw Jan on the floor, choking on his own vomit. Nobody knew what to do, except me. I put him in the recovery position and made sure he could breathe.”
“While we waited for an ambulance, he began to regain consciousness but remained very confused. I used the FAST assessment, which indicated he may have suffered a stroke. Soon afterwards, his level of consciousness deteriorated again.”
When the ambulance crew finally arrived, they found that Jan wasn’t carrying a medical card so he was taken to a public hospital where staff were desperately overstretched.
Luckily, Chris had brought along a large first aid kit and did all she could to take care of Jan over the next traumatic few hours. Eventually, a member of staff from Jan’s travel company arrived – along with another ambulance – and he was moved to a nearby private hospital.
‘Proud and grateful’
Jan later had an operation to remove a blood clot from his brain and is now making progress. Once home, Chris’s injury healed well although, as she said: “When I returned to school my colleagues thought I’d been for botox and it hadn’t quite worked!”
She added: “I feel proud and grateful that I was able to help – Jan owes his life to the skills I learnt from the Red Cross. I am so grateful for the training I’ve received over the past 20 years.”
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