accessibility & help

Brigitte’s story: “No-one else was going to help”

When a man suddenly collapsed and stopped breathing at a busy airport, Brigitte Bellwood, from Amersham, didn’t hesitate to act.

We had just got off the plane at Luton Airport and were walking down a corridor when everyone stopped. Then a woman burst through the double doors in front of us, saying: “Help. Is there a doctor?”

I’d recently done a Red Cross first aid course but I’m no doctor, so I waited for a second, but not a person moved. Not one. There were 150 passengers on that plane but everyone just looked down. So I passed my baby boy to my husband and said: “I’m going to see what happened.”

I found an unconscious man, in his sixties, lying by the foot of some stairs and bleeding badly from a head wound. His passport was on the floor beside him.

Remembered skills

The man’s adult son and young grandson were also beside him, looking terrified and not knowing what to do. I told the son to keep talking to his Dad and asked for some medical history, while I sent someone else to get professional help.

The man clearly wasn’t breathing, so I knew he urgently needed CPR to give him a chance. Fortunately, my Red Cross course had really drummed home all the key messages.

Just then, an elderly Spanish lady appeared and said she was a doctor (retired, it turned out) so I stepped back. But when she said the casualty was probably epileptic and should be put in the recovery position, I immediately thought: That’s not right.

‘Huge pressure’

All my confidence had evaporated on hearing the word ‘doctor’, but when she proposed the wrong treatment I wasn’t prepared to stand by and do nothing. Looking back, there was a huge pressure on me to just let her take over – but the Red Cross’ training had been so good that I just knew I was right.

I heard myself saying: “No: he needs CPR.”

Basically, time was running out so I immediately started administering CPR. The adrenalin kicked in and I was on auto-pilot, just letting the training guide me.

Signs of life

The airport staff soon arrived and attached an automated external defibrillator (AED) while I continued giving CPR. After two or three applications, to our huge relief the man started showing signs of life – and at that point, the paramedics arrived and took over. Thankfully, the man survived.

Afterwards I felt a bit shaky, but I’m sure I reacted so positively largely on the back of my Red Cross training. I’ve done lots of first aid over the years but have never come out feeling like I did after that course.

So when I saw the woman shouting for help, there was no way I was going to just stand by and do nothing. That’s the difference the Red Cross made.

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