Rosemarie Hayden is Area Director of Units in Kildare and a volunteer with her local Red Cross branch. Recently, she told us her car crash story and how she played a small part in this man’s life.
Home one evening and my dad called ‘come quick there’s a car turned over on the road’. I grabbed my first aid kit back from the boot of my car where it lives permanently along with my hi-vis jacket and dad drove us to the end of our road. My heart dropped when I saw a car on its roof with some people standing outside. ‘Anyone in the car?’ I asked? ‘The driver’ I was told. ‘Call the ambulance’ I told my dad ‘and go get mam’.
I looked around the scene as I walked to the car. The car had struck the fork of a Y junction in the road head on and flipped. This was a notorious junction and it wasn’t the first accident here. I took a deep breath and knelt beside the smashed driver’s window flat on the tarmac. The driver was out cold, lying at an awkward angle on the inside roof of the car, a triangle of plastic lodged in his forehead. No seatbelt.
‘Hello, can you hear me?’ No response. Struggling into my gloves seeing the blood and glass everywhere. Checked for a pulse, so relieved to find it – no idea how I’d get him out of the car. My mam arrived. With 40 years of first aid training she’s seen her fair share of tough scenes. Together we assessed the casualty, checking pulse, breathing, head to toe check while supporting the casualty’s head. All throughout I kept talking to him thinking how scary it must be if he was aware at all and didn’t know what was happening.
In what felt like forever but was actually a very short time we were surrounded by blue lights as the cavalry arrived. Identifying myself as a volunteer EMT I reported the casualty’s status to the ambulance crew. A hard hat was put on my head as I kept the casualty’s head supported while the fire service calmly opened up the car like a tin can to get access to the casualty. Seamlessly a paramedic took over supporting the casualty’s head and as I moved to check his pulse the casualty moved his hand. I held his hand in mine and talked into his ear. I told him everything was going to be alright. The noise from the machines wasn’t going to hurt him and everyone here was working together to get him safely to hospital. He squeezed my hand.
As a well-oiled team the fire and rescue team lifted the top/bottom of the car off. Working together we got the casualty onto a spinal board. It struck me that no matter how many times you practice a skill it feels like it’s never enough when you’re put to the test.
Slowly and carefully our casualty was eased free of the car and settled in the ambulance for transfer to hospital. Once the blue lights had faded into the distance I realised how hard my heart was beating. Time for a cup of tea and a chat with my mam. Needing to reassure ourselves that we’d done our best, all we could and that hopefully all would be ok.
The thing about first aid is that you’re literally the ‘first aid’ someone gets when they get hurt. You never know when or where you’ll be when you’re needed. It could be a friend, family member or stranger. When it’s a stranger you can be left to wonder how they got on and if they recovered ok. I hoped for the best for our casualty but resigned myself to not knowing for sure. Sometime later I got word that our casualty had made a full recovery and had walked out of the hospital that he had been stretchered into as an emergency. I was so glad and relieved that I could play some small part in this man’s story continuing uninterrupted on its path.
The Red Cross, all over the world, depends on its local volunteers and those volunteers depend on you. This summer, the Irish Red Cross is calling on the public to support our volunteers in our latest fundraising campaign. Please donate by visiting - www.redcross.ie/donate/