Working together to save a life: how a work team switched gears in a first aid emergency

By Kathryn Dunmore, Canadian Red Cross

An operations crew within Public Works for the City of St. John’s, NL, found out the importance of teamwork – and training - in a recent first aid emergency resulting in the crew being nominated for the Canadian Red Cross Rescuer Award.

Two people in red shirts administering first aid techniques on a mannequin, including AEDTeam Lead Aaron Walsh said he recommends all employees of any department take first aid training as it helped him direct his team in saving a colleague’s life.

Aaron credits his training, and other colleagues’ training, in first aid in helping them work through the emergency as a team, each member playing an important role. This is why the crew was nominated and awarded the Canadian Red Cross Rescuer Award

“For me, personally, it was the first time I ever experienced a situation like that,” explains Aaron. “It’s very traumatizing to an extent, and hectic. I’m a pretty calm person usually but, of course, in this type of situation your heart rate and nerves are much more extreme, but I felt the training kept me as calm as I could be in that particular situation.”

In January, the crew was working an early morning shift, typical during winter months, clearing snow from sidewalks in St. John’s. While breaks are supposed to be relaxing - a warm-up from the snow and ice while eating a meal - this particular break unfortunately turned into a first aid emergency. Fortunately, due to the crew’s actions, it had a positive outcome.

That morning, the team was eating in a lunchroom at the municipal depot when one colleague suddenly collapsed on the floor. Aaron, in his office not far away, was immediately called.

“When I got there, they were already on the phone with 911/Emergency Personnel and Rod [Denief] had already begun CPR so he and I alternated doing CPR,” recalls Aaron, who has been receiving first aid training for the past 13 years. “Because of my training, it helped me direct the team.”

Aaron directed Pat Follett to go to the cafeteria to get the automated external defibrillator (AED) while assisting Rod with chest compressions. Once Pat arrived with the AED, they followed the directions on the AED, the AED recommended treatment and delivered the required shocks. Jordan Daley and Nick Fowler coordinated with 911/Emergency Personnel and helped guide Emergency Personnel to the scene.

“With the classroom training, the CPR techniques, demonstrations using AED in the classroom [feel] completely different than when you experience it in a real-life situation as we did because of the nervous system, the dramatic experience of being in that situation,” adds Aaron. “The training clearly works; it is very beneficial.”

The City of St. John’s offers its employees Red Cross first aid training.

“I would encourage any employee of any organization, if they can, to do the first aid training,” says Aaron. “If you do encounter a situation like this, try to stay as collected as possible. I know it’s difficult but try to stay calm and rely on your training to basically assist you through the process.”

Aaron was advised by paramedics that his vitals indicated their colleague likely had a massive heart attack, and their response (calling 911 or your local emergency number, giving CPR, using the AED) likely saved his life.

Aaron insists it was a great team effort. Aaron, Rod, Pat, Jordan and Nick all contributed to the positive outcome to this incident.

“They saved his life, he wouldn’t have survived if he hadn’t had CPR and the AED working for him,” said supervisor Ryan Crewe, who nominated them for the Canadian Red Cross Rescuer Award. “Aaron gives credit to everyone involved, it was a team effort, they all helped out. We’re very proud of them. It’s an example we use to encourage people to get their first aid training.”

Interested in learning first aid? Find a first aid course near you.
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