Why First Aid Might Be The Most Important Skill You’ll Ever Learn

“I’m a first responder.” It wasn’t the first time Lynne Richards, from Telford, Shropshire, had spoken those words in a medical emergency – but it was the most important.

She had just gotten into a van that had crashed into a wall at the Telford shopping center.

The mother-of-one, Lynne, 44, is a St. John Ambulance-trained first responder


The mother-of-one, Lynne, 44, is a St. John Ambulance-trained first responder

“March 20, 2021 started out as a normal Saturday,” says Lynne, 44, a mother of one.

“It was early afternoon and I was picking up my Asda click and collect shopping in a taxi when suddenly there was a screech behind us, like a car accelerator pedal being depressed too hard in a low gear.

“A white van drove by and crashed into the wall on the driver’s side with full force.

“The taxi driver let me out and I ran across the street and told a passerby to call an ambulance. Then I climbed into the van through the passenger door.”

Just a few weeks earlier, Lynne — an officer trained at her office as a first responder with the St. John Ambulance — had responded to a call from the charity looking for volunteer vaccinators.

In preparation for the role, she had completed a one-day refresher course in CPR. Now this training should be put into practice.

“The airbag was smoldering, so people were yelling at me to get out of the van if it caught fire,” says Lynne. “But the driver was unwell.

“He fell forward in the accident, sustained facial injuries, then fell backwards and sustained a head injury. It was a lot of blood.”

Lynne calmly said to the man, “I’m a first responder – you’re safe. Please don’t move.” But he didn’t respond.

“His breathing was labored in a way I knew from videos I watched about cardiac arrest in training,” says Lynne. “I realized he was on the verge of losing consciousness and that resuscitation was the priority rather than dealing with his injuries.”

Lynne, only 5 feet 2 inches tall but fueled by adrenaline, unbuckled the man’s seat belt and pulled him to the passenger door, where two men helped her lift the driver out.

“We put him on the sidewalk when he lost consciousness,” says Lynne. “I immediately started chest compressions.

“‘Get the Defib,’ I shouted to a mall security guard.

“I then asked the crowd to back off, attached the pads to the defibrillator on the man’s chest and delivered the shock when she asked me to.

“There was no reaction – I thought we lost him. I continued CPR, then the defib instructed me to give him another shock.”

Hours of training by Lynne focused on a ten-minute struggle between life and death – then the man suddenly regained consciousness with the second shock from the defibrillator.

“He was desperate and trying to get up off the ground,” says Lynne. “But he lived.”

Police and paramedics came and took over, so Lynne got back in the van and looked for papers to identify the man.

Fittingly, given the reason she had the knowledge to save his life, she found his vaccination record. His name was Steve.

“I handed this over to the police and my job was done,” says Lynne. “It was surreal.

“Luckily, the security guard offered me a cup of sweet tea. Then I wiped the blood off my jeans and vest top – my sneakers were red anyway – and got my groceries.”

Lynne walked out with her shopping bags and saw that the paramedics were still working on Steve.

“Not wanting to get in the way, I walked straight past,” says Lynne. But back home, feeling overwhelmed by the enormity of what she had witnessed, she burst into tears.



Lynne: “Everyone should enroll in a first aid course at St. John Ambulance – it’s so important.”

Then a friend came forward and said there were photos of the scene on a Telford Facebook page – and she was in it.

“I read the comments under the photos. One woman, Steve’s relative, asked people not to post intrusive images,” says Lynne.

“I texted her explaining I gave Steve CPR and asking how he was doing. She said his head injuries were superficial.”

So Lynne’s lightning quick decision that the medical priority was to get Steve down and start compressions had been absolutely correct.

According to a study, for every minute lost before starting compressions after cardiac arrest, the chance of survival decreases by up to 10 percent.

“The ‘How was your weekend?’ The conversation at work on Monday morning was interesting,” says Lynne. “‘Well, thanks — I saved a life!'”

After Steve was released from the hospital a few weeks later, he invited Lynne to his home.

“Thanks for saving my life,” he said simply, handing her a bouquet of flowers. Lynne burst into tears.

“He was so handsome and his family was very nice,” says Lynne. “We’re friends on Facebook now and recently he posted pictures of his birthday party with a big cake.

“I was proud – that’s partly my fault. I’m just a normal person but I did something amazing and saved a life.

“Everyone should enroll in a first aid course with St. John Ambulance — it’s so important.”

How you can help


IF YOU are inspired by Lynne and want to make a difference in your community, the St. John Ambulance charity can help.

This year, the #AskMe campaign features young lifesavers.

The health and first aid organization runs six youth programs to help young people build confidence, learn important life skills, and gain the knowledge of what to do in an emergency.

St. John relies on donations from the public to equip and train the next generation of young lifeguards.

Sign up or donate at Why First Aid Might Be The Most Important Skill You’ll Ever Learn

Sarah Y. Kim

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