A hospital worker volunteered to teach life-saving skills to schoolchildren after colleagues attempted to save her own mum who had suffered a massive heart attack.
Operating department practitioner Sarah Williams-Bellis, who works at Spire Yale Hospital, in Wrexham, believes it’s vitally important to teach CPR techniques to youngsters.
Sarah was speaking at an event at Elfed High School in Buckley which was organised jointly by the British Heart Foundation, the Welsh Ambulance Service and the Resuscitation Council.
She and retired teacher Derek Hayes were there volunteering as part of Restart a Heart Day 2018 which saw around 80 secondary schools and as many as 15,000 students taking part across Wales.
Four years ago Sarah was on duty at the Countess of Chester Hospital when she was part of the team called to A&E resus to treat a patient who had suffered a cardiac event.
It turned out that the patient in question was her mother, Ruth, a 54-year-old paramedic who worked for the Welsh Ambulance Service and was based at the Dobshill ambulance station in Buckley.
Sadly, despite the best efforts of the A&E team, ambulance staff, anaesthetists and fellow operating department practitioners it wasn’t possible to save her.
Sarah said: “I have since 2016 swapped jobs and now work at Spire Yale Hospital and really enjoy it. I found it difficult going into work and being in the same room where my mum had been.
“I saw an advert for a British Heart Foundation initiative that was looking for volunteers to go into schools and teach CPR and basic First Aid to pupils. I think it’s something that should be part of the curriculum.
“I’ve come along today to the Elfed High School in Buckley with my fellow volunteer Derek Hayes, who is a volunteer Welsh Ambulance Service Community First Responder, for the first session I’ve done as part of Restart a Heart Day.
“I’ve really enjoyed working with these young people and helping them understand the importance of CPR and how they could make a difference in an emergency. It’s been really enjoyable and the pupils have been very keen to learn.
“Teaching the importance of CPR to young people and hopefully giving them the skills to act with confidence is really important. If these pupils are able to start CPR in an emergency they would double the chances of survival for the patient.
“What happened to my mum and the team effort from my colleagues to try and save her has drove me onto become a British Heart Foundation and Welsh Ambulance Service volunteer.”
Derek Hayes, of Halkyn, said: “This is also the first session I have done. Sarah and I volunteered for what is a wonderful initiative. Restart a Heart Day is a great idea and the number of young people learning CPR across the UK today is phenomenal.
“I enjoy working with young people anyway and it’s been good fun. They are so keen to learn and it really could make a difference. I agree with Sarah, CPR should be taught in schools as part of the curriculum.”
Across Wales around 80 secondary schools and as many as 15,000 students were taught how to do CPR.
Dr Brendan Lloyd, Medical Director for The Welsh Ambulance Service NHS Trust, said: “Many people don’t realise that if they were immediately able to start CPR should someone suffer a cardiac arrest in front of them, the chance of survival doubles.
“Currently in the UK, bystanders only get involved in doing CPR in 43% of cardiac arrest cases, compared to 73% in Norway where the survival rate is considerably higher.
Adam Fletcher, Head of the BHF Cymru added: “Restart a Heart Day is an extraordinary event where young people are given the skill to save a life.
“Young people of 10 years and above can learn CPR and if more bystanders have the confidence and skills to call 999 and deliver effective CPR until the ambulance service arrives, then this will only increase the number of people who will survive.”
It was a sentiment echoed by Elfed High School pupil Nathan Davies, 13, of Buckley, who said: “It’s been a good thing to learn and something I never knew before. I would probably be confident enough to try if I found someone collapsed.”
Fellow pupils Lauren Brocklebank, 14, and Erin Davies, 13, both of Buckley agreed.
Lauren said: “I did do some CPR lessons in primary school and I think it’s a really important life skill to learn. It might mean you could save a life.”
Erin added: “It was actually hard work physically but it’s not complicated and might save a life so it’s a skill we should all learn.”
Jessica Ansloos, 13, of Buckley, said: “I already have a certificate for CPR as I joined St John’s as a cadet. I attend carnivals and fete’s that kind of thing as a cadet.
“I’ve never had to give CPR yet but it’s well worth learning, you just never know when you night need it. I’ve enjoyed this session; it was really good and gave everyone an idea of what to do.”
Andrew Ellis, 13, from Sandycroft, said: “It’s a really good idea to teach CPR in schools. I have had some experience through the Air Cadets. The training this morning was really good though and very clear.
“It really is a good idea to teach what is a very important life skill is. I know some of my class mates had no idea what CPR was all about until today. Maybe learning here in school may just save a life.”
Spire Yale Hospital director Sue Jones: “We are very proud of what a Sarah is doing in practical terms to teach CPR skills to schoolchildren and in raising awareness of the vital importance of being able to help if somebody suffers a cardiac event.
“The youngsters at Elfed High School who took part in the course will certainly be better equipped to help if called upon and they may well end up saving somebody’s life.”