What were you up to on Monday evening? Normally you’d find me camped on the sofa in my fluffy robe, decompressing after getting the babes off to bed.
But last Monday I was at the Lancaster London hotel, munching on a delicious 3-course gourmet meal and hobnobbing with ‘slebs at the St. John Ambulance First Aid Awards.
The event had what I call the ‘goose bump factor’ and for me, this had little to do with the chill outside or the telly/sports names dotted around the room — Duncan Bannatyne (Dragon’s Den), retired footballer Fabrice Muamba, TV health expert Dr. Dawn Harper and host Ray Mears, to roll call a few.
The goosebumps happened thanks to the real stars of the night — finalists who had been selected for exceptional courage or attitude in treating a friend or stranger with first aid.
At the reception before the awards started, I heard the incredibly moving story of 11-year-old Maria Rowe who resuscitated her dad after he collapsed unconscious in their living room. Her mother admitted that she panicked and didn’t know what to do.
But her amazing daughter calmed mum down, dialled 999, followed their recommendations over the phone and used the training she’d picked up at a St John Ambulance Badger Course to save her dad’s life.
Needless to say, I became biased in favour of Maria after meeting her and in fact everyone on our table was rooting for her to win. She was pipped to the post by 17-year-old Lee Craven, whose tale of risking his own life to rescue his mate from near drowning under a frozen canal was nothing short of breathtaking.
It was really moving watching Lee pick up the Guy Evans Award, named in honour of another 17-year-old boy who sadly died when first aid might have saved him.
More awards were handed out to outstanding individuals, such as security guard Graeme Beddows who stopped a baby from choking in Tesco. There were also companies and organisations rewarded for their investment in first aid training.
Duncan Bannatyne shared his experience of falling to the ground at work with crushing heart pain and feeling immediately reassured by the ambulance workers who performed first aid on him.
Fabrice Muamba reflected on his shocking cardiac arrest during an FA cup match and being brought back from the brink of death by a resuscitation team.
Being at the awards, it hit home how essential it is for everybody to learn basic first aid.
It’s a life-changing skill and I believe first aid should be a standard course at school, at every work place and for every new parent.
Apparently up to 140,000 people die every year in situations where first aid could have helped them live — shockingly this is the same number as die annually from cancer.
Only last month, my little one suffered a head injury on the way back from school that resulted in blood gushing everywhere and all of us on the pavement in tears. We were surrounded instantly by helpful strangers, not least two ladies from the nursery across the road who rushed to our aid.
Before I knew it, they had bandaged Jed’s head to contain the bleeding and called an ambulance who took us to hospital where the doctor glued his head back together.
Jed came out of it fine (he’s got a Harry Potter style lightning bolt on his forehead) and I’m forever grateful to those angels who came to our rescue and made a scary situation bearable. When I went to thank them later, one admitted that she’d been quite freaked out but her first aid training had allowed her to act calm and be a soothing presence for us all.
Thanks so much to St John Ambulance rep Anya for inviting me to the awards and it was fun to share a table with her, along with my lovely friend Rachel (pictured above with me) and savvy mamas Monica of London Mums and Rita of Mum and Baby Experience Holidays (left).
We all agreed that taking a first aid refresher course is top of our to-do lists for 2013!
Find out about first aid courses at www.sja.org.uk