Justin's Story

Date: 11 March 2019


My name is Justin, and I’ve just attended my First Aid Requalification Course with St John Wales. I work for a construction company and around two years ago we were building a power station in Port Talbot. On a dark October evening, about two years ago, I dealt with my first serious incident – little did I know at the time that my second would come only a month later.

It was about 5.15pm. The gateman at the time came running through the door, saying:

“Quick! There’s a man having problems at the main gate.”

David Murphy (the Health and Safety Manager) had already attended the scene, and I went along as backup to Dave at the time. As I approached the gate, I could see a red BMW parked on the left hand side. Dave was actually holding the man under his arms and was pulling him out of the car. As I got to Dave he said to me:

“Do me a favour Justin, speak to the paramedic on the phone.” 

So I sat in the car, and watched Dave assist the man – he was almost carrying him actually – to the gatehouse.

What was odd to me at that point was that I remember the man retching a lot. He was panicking, he was pale, and he was in a bit of a state really. I ended up sitting in the car talking to the paramedic - we worked out that the man had his car phone on and he must have been driving down the motorway and thought ‘I’m not very well here.'

He had called the ambulance via the car speaker and had managed to pull over, so the ambulance was on the phone as we came into contact with him. I could see from the car into the gatehouse. The man was sitting down against the wall and he looked really ill. We put one of the gatesman’s big coats on him to keep him warm. He was anxious and he was panicking.  Dave was just talking to him saying things like:

"How’s your day been?" 

"What have you been doing?"

"What have you eaten?"

 that sort of thing.

His name was Mark, and we found out that he hadn’t eaten at all that day, but I remember saying to Dave there were packets of Rennie all over the car – he’d been eating them like they were sweets. So we asked the Mark the ‘SAMPLE’ questions (signs and symtoms, allergies, medication, last meal, past medical history, event history).

I know theese from my first aid training with St John – asking things like his past medical history, did he take medication, where he was from, who would he like us to contact etc.

We wrote it all down, and it also gave us a talking point as well. He said he hadn’t eaten all day, so we joked with him then:

“Oh well no wonder you’ve collapsed on the floor, you haven’t eaten all day!”

and that rapport was built up. Then it was all about reassuring him while we waited for the paramedics.

He was telling me about his little boy who was only a toddler – that was panicking him then, because he knew he wasn’t well and he was worrying about his little boy and his family. It’s funny though; people worry about the weirdest things – he was saying:

"What about my car?"

"What about work tomorrow?”

We replied:

"It’s not a problem at the moment, let’s sort you out!"

Mark was very grateful and said:

"Thanks very much boys."

We had him for a little while before the ambulance got there, probably 15 to 20 minutes. By the time the ambulance came, we’d managed to calm him down. It was fortunate that Dave had done a lot of first aid in the past, so I think that helped. I think our casualty had got to the point where he knew he was with someone who knew their stuff; we’d called the ambulance and it was on the way and he was even laughing and joking a little bit with us by the end. He didn’t look any better by the time the paramedics arrived, but I must be honest, he did seem much calmer.

The paramedics took him to the hospital, so we parked his car in our compound and his wife came the next day to pick the car up and said he was ok, but he’d had a suspected minor heart attack.

The aftermath was interesting for me and Dave. Dave had dealt with things a few times before; I never had. I went home that night and told my wife and thought no more of it. It wasn’t until a few days later when I was driving in past the gatehouse that I thought, ‘wow, that was a close call. That could have been worse.'

Mark showed up a few weeks later on and gave us a crate of lager each! So it was great to have that thank-you.

Then about a month later, I got a radio call from Dave:

“We’ve had a man collapse under the scaffold on site.”

Dave used a few expletives, to the effect of

“I can’t believe this has happened again!”

So again I went down to it. I know less about this one because unfortunately we didn’t hear a lot afterwards. But I got down onto the site; it was a big power station and he was in the turbine hall at the time. He was under the scaffold and he was a big bloke, maybe 20 stone plus. He’d collapsed and we didn’t know why he was grey and ashen and Dave and I, with our recent history, thought ‘we’ve got another heart attack on our hands here.'

So we called the ambulance and we knew we had to get him out. There was someone next to him when he collapsed, so we knew he hadn’t hit the floor with a big thump, he’d just sort of slouched. There was an abundance of operatives there so we used a couple of the guys who were around us on the building site – we sort of manhandled him out because we thought:

“Well, we can’t just leave him there."

What was a bit more challenging about this one was that we had to direct the ambulance in because it was quite a big building site .While Dave was getting him out I ‘dispatched’ a few of our staff members who’d shown up at the same time to position operatives on vehicle routes within the site. We’d had to clear routes and open up certain gates and then they stood there and directed the ambulance straight in.

I don’t really know much about the outcome; he went off in an ambulance and I heard that he was ok but I don’t know whether it was confirmed as a heart attack or something else. We’re not so sure. But to have two people drop on you in a month was a real challenging time.

That’s the only time in 16 years as a first aider I’ve had to deal with anything so serious. Mostly, the worst we’d normally see on a building site is cuts from Stanley blades. But my First Aid training actually made a lot of difference in these two cases, and to have Dave Murphy with me, with his years of experience with St John meant that the situation was handled as best it could be.

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