First aid trainer saves life during lunch break

Katrina Carolan

Lifesaver Katrina Carolan

A St John Ambulance trainer has told of the moment she saved a man’s life in Leytonstone while on a lunch break from teaching first aid.

Katrina Carolan, 42, was preparing for an afternoon training session on cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) last week when some of her students, returning from their midday break, alerted her to a real life cardiac arrest in the street outside.

The drama happened near the St John Ambulance (SJA) training centre in Queen’s Road, Leytonstone, where Katrina was running a first aid course. Manager David Root and his wife Linda – both SJA volunteers – were also in the building at the time.

All three rushed outside and found an off-duty nurse giving chest compressions to an elderly man who had collapsed outside Leytonstone tube station.

Katrina said: “The nurse said she’d never done CPR with rescue breaths, so I took over. I told my students to go back to the classroom as I didn’t want them seeing something like that before they’d even learned CPR.”

Heart attack drama

Paramedics at the scene of the heart attack in Leytonstone

Katrina continued doing rescue breaths and chest compressions while David and Linda administered artificial respiration using a ventilator. Within minutes two paramedics and an ambulance were at the scene to assist in the life-saving effort.

The patient started breathing again after paramedics delivered four shocks to his heart with an automated external defibrillator.

Katrina later went back to the classroom to finish her training, but said: “I didn’t feel much like teaching CPR after that so I completed the students’ assessments while my manager sent another trainer to do the CPR session.”

Before transferring the patient to hospital, paramedics interrupted the training to tell Katrina there was no doubt her swift actions had saved the man’s life.

“At that point my students started applauding and hugging me. I felt really chuffed and told them: ‘This proves first aid works’.”

Katrina, from Forest Hill, has been a full-time SJA trainer since 2006. Guy Hillman, regional training manager for London SJA, said: “We’re all very proud of the crucial part our three St John Ambulance first aiders played in saving this man’s life.

“While no-one wants to be faced with a life or death situation like this, it just shows how important it is for people to learn basic life saving skills.

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