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Ray’s story: ‘We saved a life at crowded rugby stadium’

Event first aid volunteer Ray Riva had to contend with a dramatic emergency while on duty at a packed rugby game in Edinburgh. Here’s his story

I was on duty at a big Six Nations game when a call came in to help a man who’d suffered a cardiac arrest in one of the stands.

When I got there, it was quite a scene. The casualty was lying prone across a step and there was already a small crowd of people – two paramedics, two off-duty doctors from the crowd and a British Red Cross volunteer – busy at work to revive him.

One paramedic was giving him oxygen, a second paramedic and doctor were preparing cardiac drugs and finding a vein, and one of them had connected him to a defibrillator. All the while, my colleague Gavin Baillie was giving chest compressions.

In good hands

I took over the chest compressions but for a good few minutes he still had no signs of life. However, we all kept working and after the second defibrillator shock he finally showed a pulse and started breathing.

I radioed for a stretcher, and one of our first aid volunteers arrived with one very quickly. The casualty was a big guy and the whole venue was really crowded, so we had quite a daunting journey to get outside. But once again, the Red Cross team got straight on the case and helped the police establish a clear exit route all the way out of the stadium.

Outside the ground, we put him into a waiting ambulance that immediately sped off to Edinburgh Royal Infirmary with a police escort. Apparently, he arrested twice more on the way to the hospital – it was such a close call. And yet, four days later, he was sitting up in bed and chatting to his family.

Team response

Looking back, I suppose we just went into auto-pilot really; in situations like that, all the training just slots into place. And though it may have been our hands on the guy’s chest, Gavin and I were just cogs in the machine – the whole response represented a marvellous team effort.

It’s a great feeling to think that the chap is now back with his family. He was lucky to have been surrounded by so many medical professionals when it happened. If he’d just been out in the street, it might have been a different story.

The whole incident was also a great example of how well the Red Cross can work with the emergency services. Everything went very smoothly and, even now, I wouldn’t change a thing about our response.

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