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.
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.
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.