CPR saved my life: Jean's story

Publication date 01 July 2019

If you’ve ever been on a workplace first aid course or learned CPR, you might imagine the chances of having to use the skills in a real life situation could be slim.

For J, who works at insurance company Esure in Glasgow, attending a quick CPR awareness session during her shift proved to be half an hour that would help save someone’s life.

Just a week after St John Scotland volunteers visited the Esure offices, J was out shopping when she came across a crowd of people huddled around a woman who had collapsed in the street.

J said: “I asked if they needed help, but they said it was all OK. It was right outside the health centre, so I figured help would be close at hand anyway. I went to get something from the shop, and it was only when I came out and she was still there, that I thought something could be seriously wrong.

Photo of CPR training

“The woman wasn’t breathing properly – she would just do a big gasp for air every now and again – and her lips had turned blue. I asked if anyone had phoned for an ambulance and they said no, but that someone was going to get a wheelchair.”

CPR hands closeup

With the training session still fresh in her mind, J knew she had to act quickly. She told the people helping to lay the woman down flat on the ground, and phoned 999.

“I put the phone on speakerphone so they could hear what was going on. I remembered what we had done in the training, and tilted her head back to check her airways, and looked for signs of normal breathing.

Jean Smith photograph

“I had just started to do chest compressions when two nurses came out of the health centre with a defibrillator, so I let them take over. They used the defibrillator on her and it worked, so by the time the ambulance came, she had a faint pulse back and she had shallow breathing again.”

After the incident, J was fortunate to be put in touch with the woman who had collapsed, to find out how she was doing.

She was delighted to hear that she had survived, and was recovering well. Doctors later fitted an ICD (internal defibrillator), and the woman – Jean – is now recovering at home.

J says it means a lot to know that her actions had helped save Jean’s life: “Knowing that she has such a large and loving family, and that they were all so grateful that she managed to survive, is really special.

“When the nurses put the defib on her and it said it needed to shock, I realized how close she was to dying right there and then on the street. Jean told me her brother and her father had both died suddenly – her brother had collapsed in the street too – and it’s awful to think she could have gone the same way.

“I was glad that St John Scotland came to do the CPR awareness session at my work, because it’s not the sort of thing I might have sought out for myself. I had never learned about CPR or defibrillators before.

“Since this all happened I’ve been telling everyone they should learn CPR! I might not have known what to do if I hadn’t been on the training. The people who were helping Jean at first didn’t realise how serious it was.

“You never know when you might be in a situation you need to do CPR, you could be in your work or at home and there’s no one around who knows how to help. So go and learn!”

Jean says she will forever be grateful to J for helping to save her life: “When she told me that St John Scotland had given her CPR training just the week before, I couldn’t believe it.

"The two nurses who came to help had also had refresher training just that morning.

“I don’t think the public realise how important it is to learn CPR – I certainly didn’t. My doctor told me that it can be very rare for someone who has a cardiac arrest like I did, to go on to survive and have such a good recovery.

“I’ll always be grateful to J and the nurses and everyone at the hospital for saving my life.”

Liz Crawford, St John Scotland’s Projects Officer, ran the awareness session at Esure with two volunteers. She says: “Jean’s story just goes to show that knowing how to recognize the signs of cardiac arrest, and acting quickly to get help, are so important. J deserves a huge well done for intervening in this situation, which could have so easily ended in tragedy.

“We are really keen to help teach more people across Scotland about CPR and defibrillators. You never know when you might be the person who can step in and help save someone’s life.”

If you would like St John Scotland volunteers to provide CPR training at your workplace, please contact us at info@stjohnscotland.org.uk