Fermoy schoolgirl Jemma Dearden is, in most respects, your average sixteen year old. But unlike most sixteen year olds, Jemma is a lifesaver.
In the early hours of the morning, Jemma and her mother Julie were woken by shouts for help from the street below their bedroom windows. The teenager’s first aid training from the Irish Red Cross instinctively kicked in as she grabbed her first aid kit an ran down the stairs.
Jemma remembers what happened that night:
I was woken by my mum telling me there man unconscious downstairs, and I was up. I went straight for my first aid kit and a jacket.
It’s funny looking back on it, I didn’t even think about the fact I was in my pyjamas, I just wanted to help. My mother explained she had called the emergency services and requested the Gardaí – she had not been down to the unconscious man as she was unsure of how safe the scene was.
We went downstairs together.
After assessing the situation and with my gloves on, I made my way over to the patient. His friends were supporting his legs and had his body across mum’s car bonnet; they were shaking him and shouting his name. It was clear, he was unconscious.
I introduced myself and asked for feedback on what had happened to the patient before he had gone unconscious. The three men were in Fermoy for the weekend. They were out for the evening and had been drinking. The patient had got into a brawl with another man and he had taken a blow to face.
There were no obvious signs of severe bleeding. The man’s airway was clear; His breathing was difficult and noisy, with poor circulation to his clenched hands. His hands were stiff and locked, making it impossible for me to find his radial pulse.
When looking for his carotid artery to find a pulse in his neck I noticed what looked like severe perspiration. I asked if the man had been exposed to water. He had been. In an attempt to rouse their friend, his friends had poured a bucket of water over his head. It was then that I noticed blood around the patient’s nostrils as a result of the brawl.
Straight away I asked for help lowering the patient to the ground. From there I placed him in the recovery position. I did so to prevent swallowing of blood, like any nose bleeds and so the man could vomit without struggling for breath.
I re-accessed his airway, his breathing became regular, his circulation was still very poor and he was becoming very pale. I asked my mother to fetch a blanket from upstairs to insulate him. I began to check his vital signs. He was still un-responsive, breathing was rapid and his pulse was very weak and irregular.
The Gardaí arrived and we covered him with the blanket. The man’s eyes opened suddenly and he began to cough violently as is choking for air. He began to vomit blood so I propped him up and reassured him but within seconds he was unconscious again.
I stayed and monitored the man’s vitals. His breathing and pulse became regular and his body temperature began to rise by the time the paramedics arrived.
I got to do my first hand-over to the paramedics. They took over while I gave the Gardaí details of the situation. The patient’s friends were very thankful and did the right thing by looking for help and requesting an ambulance.
It was weird and wonderful using skills I had picked up from Red Cross training and then putting them to the test. Like anyone who has done first aid will know that treatment will only extend life, rather than definitely save it. I was happy to help in providing care for the man.
May 13th – 19th is National Volunteer Week 2013, to celebrate the Irish Red Cross is sharing real life experiences from volunteers around the country and encouraging more people to get involved with their local Red Cross.
Irish Red Cross volunteers are involved in a range of community activities; including Youth Development, first aid training courses, therapeutic care, search and rescue and emergency response.
For more information about how you can get involved with the Irish Red Cross in your community, see www.redcross.ie or call 01 642 4600