Nicola Roberts knows all too well that medical emergencies can strike at any time - and when they do, it can be a matter of life or death depending on whether help is quickly at hand.
The 35-year-old from Arbourthorne in Sheffield, volunteers for St John Ambulance as assistant youth leader of the city’s Number One Cadet unit, giving up her time to help train young people in first aid.
But the number of youth leaders is beginning to dwindle, meaning the charity is urgently appealing for more people to join up to school the next generation of lifesavers.
Nicola said the role has brought her ‘joy and satisfaction’ - while her first aid skills meant she helped to save a man’s life last year when he collapsed with a heart attack.
The middle-aged man went into cardiac arrest during a match at Barnsley FC.
“We were called to a collapse - we didn’t know what it was until we got to him,” she said.
“His heart wasn’t beating properly, it had gone into a strange rhythm.
“It was pretty chaotic, there were quite a few people doing multiple things.
“I cleared his airways and did some CPR, and then it was decided to use a defibrillator to get his heart beating normally again.
“I think, between us and the Yorkshire Ambulance Service, we saved his life.”
Nicola added: “I still think about it now. It was a big event in my life.
“When your heart stops beating, time is of the essence - people need to be around who can get help there and then.”
She was also once on hand when a man was attacked with a snooker cue in Sheffield city centre.
The victim was bleeding heavily from the head, and Nicola checked his skull before applying pressure to the wound until an ambulance arrived.
“He had a big, seven-inch laceration on his skull and there was lots of blood,” she said.
“He ended up being in hospital for a week, it was quite serious.”
Nicola, who works as a dental nurse, has been in St John Ambulance for more than a decade, holding down a leadership role for seven years.
Husband Richard, 34, is also involved with the organisation.
Her unit meets every Wednesday evening at St John House on Broadfield Road, Heeley, and has more than 30 cadets aged 10 to 17 and 20 ‘badgers’, all five to 10-year-olds.
“I love to see young people grow, learn new skills and develop into fully-fledged first aiders,” she said.
Cadets can participate in more than 70 different subjects, from communications to creative topics, as well as the traditional first aid techniques.
Badgers can choose from 15 subjects to help complete their award.
“In Sheffield we’re short of youth leaders, we’re trying to get a big push to recruit more,” said Nicola.
Philip O’Donnell, the charity’s regional youth manager, said: “We are looking for adults who love working with young people and have some time to spare on a regular basis.
“It’s wonderful that so many young people are expressing an interest in joining our badger and cadet groups.
“As well as learning to save lives, they gain self-esteem, confidence and a sense of belonging.
“It would be a crying shame if we didn’t have enough leaders to support them.
“St John Ambulance provides all necessary training to the highest standard.”
For more information about becoming a youth leader visit www.sja.org.uk/volunteering, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01924 262726, choosing option four.
Teenage cadet saved her baby sister from choking
South Yorkshire teenager Charlotte Coates may have saved her baby sister’s life by knowing what to do when she was choking.
When the St John Ambulance cadet heard a commotion in the bathroom in the middle of the night she rushed to help.
Her mum Lisa was struggling with seven-month-old Ella, who had been sick and was choking. Charlotte, aged 16, immediately put her knowledge of first aid for babies into practice.
She said: “Mum knew to hit her on the back, but not in the right position. Ella was sitting upright, so it wasn’t going to do much.
“I took my sister and tilted her over my arm as you should. It didn’t take long for it to come up and she was fine. The next day I showed Mum how to put Ella over my arm in case it happened again.”
Lisa said: “It was only afterwards that I realised how scary it was. I called Charlotte down because I was struggling, felt quite panicked and didn’t know what to do. I knew she would know more than me.
“She was fantastic, she just got on with it, put Ella in the right position and stopped her choking. If she hadn’t been there, I don’t like thinking about what might have happened.”
Charlotte, from Doncaster, is a member of the Edlington Cadets and joined the first aid charity as a Badger. She added: “Apart from at St John Ambulance, I don’t really know any friends that know first aid. It’s important people learn because it can be vital.”