A day at the races

Did you know that the majority of St John Ambulance event first aiders are volunteers?

No? Neither did I. That was until I had the opportunity to shadow a St John Ambulance foot patrol team at the Cheltenham Gold Cup festival. Most people don’t even realise that St John Ambulance is a charity with an army of volunteers, and believe that all they do is run First Aid courses. But they’re so much more!

I joined the patrol team early, before 65,000 race goers were let in. As I followed them around the empty stands it felt like the calm before the storm. Once everyone was briefed, and the crowds poured in, I began to appreciate the amount of time and planning involved with running emergency services at events like this. The majority of events held across the country wouldn’t be able to take place without St John Ambulance and you can see why.

Around 42 St John Ambulance volunteers alone attended each day of the festival and within minutes, we were called out to help a man who’d collapsed with severe chest pain, a suspected heart attack. I’ve never seen someone in such agony and felt completely useless as I watched the team assess and treat him. I’ve forgotten nearly all of the first aid training I’ve been taught but these people show just how important it is to be able to apply first aid in an emergency situation, I definitely need to book onto a course soon! The man was loaded into the St John ambulance (their own specially funded vehicle) and the test results showed he didn’t have to go to hospital. He made a full recovery and I got my very first ride in an ambulance, luckily it was in the front seat though!

Throughout the day each first aider did not fail to impress. Fighting through the crowds to find the casualty was just the first hurdle; from their calm approach to all types of injury to the huge amount of medical knowledge, it gave me a new found appreciation of their skills, dedication and passion for helping those in need.

St John Ambulance volunteers give up their own time to care for the public. They undertake rigorous training to provide first aid for their communities, and are always prepared to go the extra mile for vulnerable people. It’s rare to have the chance to get so close to a cause and meet such a great group of people.