Gina Gill describes a recent personal experience of a CPR call whilst working as a recently qualified NHS 111 health advisor at the Yorkshire Ambulance Service.
Our 111 service usually handles general health enquiries and non-urgent health care treatment, helping thousands of people find the best way to access the NHS.
CPR calls are therefore a rare occurrence. Many of my colleagues have worked at the service for years and have never taken a CPR call. So, one day, when I received a call from someone saying a man was not waking up and had stopped breathing, it was a massive shock.
The call was made by a woman who on visiting a friend found him lying on the floor in his home, seemingly unconscious. The woman didn’t seem too panicked at first and didn’t mention he was on the ground until I started the assessment.
I asked the caller to try and wake him but after shaking him, she was unable to do so. It quickly became clear he wasn’t breathing and as soon as you hear those words, you know exactly what to do.
I immediately arranged for an ambulance to attend the scene and then asked the caller to put her phone on the floor so she had her hands free to start CPR. We started counting the compressions together. I had to keep encouraging the caller to keep going even though it was tiring. It felt like time was moving very slowly but also at super speed.
The call came through during my fifth week of training, so I was still learning about the way the NHS Pathways system operates and how to navigate the many facets the service provides.
Thankfully, I was able to immediately recognise the signs we had been taught in our training about unconsciousness and abnormal breathing, allowing me to quickly arrange help.
The NHS Pathways system that guides us through every call gave me incredibly clear instructions that I had to relay to the caller. Alongside this, I used my recent CPR training from the Yorkshire Ambulance Service to help me describe each step.
I had a clinician and an experienced call handler by my side who could have stepped in at any moment if I became overwhelmed by the task in hand.
I knew the ambulance crew would be travelling as fast as possible to the scene, but I was constantly aware that every second this person went without defibrillation and emergency treatment, reduced their chances of survival.
The whole situation didn’t really hit me until I heard the ambulance crew arrive. They took over the life support and began defibrillation.
I had just witnessed someone on the line between life and death and this call made me step back and realise my job here and the hard work of the caller, along with the support from emergency services, is something that can really change lives.