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I'm Jane McIntyre, a voiceover and writer, formerly an award-winning BBC radio newsreader and producer. My blog covers life, love and loss; travel, coffee and chocolate; with some heartfelt pieces in the mix about my late dad, who had dementia. Just a click away, I'm half of the team behind - two empty nesters who whizzed round the world in 57 days.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Someone ill? Look away now....

So here`s your scenario.

You`re in your local high street. And something catches your eye on the other side of the busy road. You realise a bloke`s keeled over and hit the deck.

Do you :

a) gasp and feel incredibly sorry for him...and carry on with your shopping...
b) assume he`s probably had a heavy session at the pub, say `tut`, ...and keep walking...
c) belt over the road, zigzagging through the traffic, to see what you can do.

If you answered a) or b), I don`t really want to know you. If you mentally ticked c), then well done. And if it`s me in a heap on the street, could you come and check I`m ok too, please?

The thing never know when you`re going to trip or fall ill in a public place. Nobody does. And when you`re young and fit and 22, you hope it isn`t going to happen too often. But it did today, to my daughter, who was commuting on a rush hour train into Waterloo station in London. With no real warning, she felt ill, and collapsed.

She`s better now,and is getting checked out. But in the telephone conversation we`ve just had, I realised she`d probably encountered all shades of humanity on that train, and has been left feeling pretty saddened by the experience.

There was panic--with someone pulling the emergency lever, bringing the train to a halt.

There was, she realised, on coming round...some irritation among the regular commuters whose schedule had been momentarily thrown out of kilter.

There was some kindness--with a fellow passenger offering her a seat (albeit, I`m told, a little grudgingly...).

And there was some hilarious giggling from a group of schoolgirls.

At Waterloo she gingerly got off the train, then, feeling wobbly again, stood for a moment on the platform. At which point another young woman, dark haired, and possibly Spanish, stopped the whoosh of commuters heading for the exit gate, to ask how she was. She then offered my daughter a steadying arm, carried her bag, checked where she had to get to, and made sure she was well enough to continue her journey.

I`d like to thank her for her kindness...we all would. But what went wrong? Was this symptomatic of an uncaring city where commuters are never keen to look fellow passengers in the eye, let alone catch them when they fall? Or were people just worried they`d do the wrong thing and make a medical emergency worse?

Once, someone--an elderly visitor-- collapsed in a place I used to work. There were probably a dozen or so members of staff in the building at the time; none of the usual trained first aiders, but competent, intelligent people you`d like to think you could rely on in a crisis. And usually, you could. But you could see from the start of the emergency, who was going to roll up their sleeves, and who was going to be rooted to the spot in terror.

A group of us rushed to the room where it happened. He was unconscious; not breathing. Two of us somehow got him from the chair to the floor, one of us starting mouth to mouth, and one of us CPR. Someone had called an ambulance but it was one of those occasions where the town was completely gridlocked because of a number of incidents. For a few more minutes, we were on our own. We carried on, guided by the 999 team at the end of the line, relaying instructions via a colleague. In the end, the elderly gentleman we`d tried to save, got whisked off in the ambulance, and despite everyone`s best efforts, died later that day.

I don`t want a medal for trying. I never have. I just want to know that if it ever happens to me, or to you, there`ll be someone there to do their best for us, or to anyone else who falls ill.

Excellent charities like St John Ambulance and the Red Cross offer courses to help us all deal with potentially life threatening emergencies. It would be great to see more people learning the skills they offer, so that at least something is done until the professionals arrive.

Today, it wasn`t life threatening, but nobody knew that. So a special thankyou to one young woman in London today, who saw another alone, and in trouble, and went out of her way to check.

OK now--but did you see her out cold on that crowded train?

++How about you.....ever helped in an emergency, or even...saved a life? Are there times you`ve looked back, and wished that you`d done more? Maybe you`re a first aid trainer or a paramedic. What more could the public do if they`re first at the scene of a real emergency ? Do you wish more people were trained in basic CPR?

 bless her. Just read it now, I just don't understand some people, thank goodness for that kind lady. X

 Coincidence after reading your blog today: my wife helped an old lady who'd fallen face first on pavement. So many wouldn't.


  1. In answer to your multi choice question, I would go for D) think Oh crap poor bloke, Cross the road as quickly and safety as possible. (a First aider run over by a car is useless) and render aid.

    Have I helped in an emergency? Oh yes, many times. I am member of St John in Shropshire. I have dealt with thing most First aider at work never come across. I, like you Jane, don't want a medal for it, it just what I do.

  2. I hope she's feeling 100% now. Sorry, I didn't know. And, yes, you bet your arse I'd be the one screaming for people to help or F*ck off out of the way. X