Moments that matter: An interview with Kevin Wiggs
I’m the first to admit that my knowledge of First Aid doesn’t extend very far; all I know is that the plasters at work are in the green box by the fridge, and that if I need to perform CPR, I should do it to the beat of Stayin’ Alive by the Bee Gees. The only problem is, I don’t actually know how to perform CPR. Or put someone in the recovery position. Or check that their airway is clear. Truth be told, aside from knowing to call 999, I wouldn’t have a clue what to do.
I’ve never really thought about becoming First Aid trained. Instead, I’ve always figured that someone else will be around who’ll know what to do. But what if there wasn’t anyone around? What if it was just me? Or it was my mum or dad that were hurt, and I was the only one there that could help them? It’s these ‘what ifs’ that have made me realise that knowing how to help someone in an accident or emergency shouldn’t be assumed as someone else’s responsibility; the responsibility lies with each and every one of us.
A simple skill, with incredible impact
First Aid knowledge is invaluable; it can often mean the difference between life and death. In its most basic form, First Aid is the initial assistance given to someone who is injured or unwell. It’s comprised of some relatively simple techniques and procedures that can be performed with limited equipment, and is typically carried out until professional medical assistance arrives. It can be performed at work, in your own home or in public places, so the more trained First Aiders there are in your community, the safer your community becomes.
Kevin Wiggs, now a Senior Auditor in our Internal Audit function, but previously the Manager of our Bromley High Street branch, is one of the First Aiders helping to keep his community, and our customers, safe. He’s helped with everything from paper cuts to sprains and strains, but most recently, saved the life of a customer who went into diabetic shock whilst visiting his branch.
I caught up with Kevin, who shared his experience with me, and showed how even a little bit of First Aid knowledge, can go a long, long way.
Kevin has been First Aid trained for 8 years. Having originally completed a basic Emergency Aid course whilst studying Sports Recreation at college, he decided to extend his knowledge when he secured a Branch Manager position for one of our NatWest branches. ‘I joined the bank as a Private Banking Portfolio Assistant in 2004, and worked my way up to Branch Manager in 2009. Because there were such a high number of customers that would visit our branch, I could see how important it was that my First Aid knowledge was up-to-date, so I could keep my employees, and our customers, in safe hands.’
Having made his decision, Kevin reached out to the business, to get the ball rolling. ‘The business couldn’t have been more supportive. They arranged for me to attend a ‘First Aid at Work’ training course, held by St John Ambulance, which provides the practical skills needed by first aiders in most workplaces, to become a confident first aider at work, and have both the ability and knowledge to deal with first aid emergencies.’
But, as we all know, accidents don’t just happen in the workplace, and the skills that Kevin has picked up from his training have come in handy in a number of situations. ‘I’ve helped with all sorts. The most common injuries are from accidents like slips and trips, but outside of work, I’ve helped a motorcyclist who was involved in an accident, and someone who was intoxicated on a night out and had slipped and hit their head.
‘The best thing about the course, and being First Aid trained, is that it gives you skills for all situations; you never know when you might need to use them. They’ve really built my confidence up too; I used to be a complete wimp when it came to seeing blood and hearing the sound of cracking bones on TV, but now I can jump into action without giving it a second thought.’
And jumping into action is exactly what he had to do, when he was alerted to a customer visiting his branch, who didn’t seem quite right.
“He was completely unable to communicate and stood, staring blankly and clutching his debit card”
‘It was a 0-60 situation. I was actually in a meeting, when the customer initially came into the branch. After queuing up for the Assisted Counter, he was greeted by a member of my team, who quickly realised that something was wrong. He was completely unable to communicate and stood, staring blankly and clutching his debit card, as though he couldn’t remember what he was actually there for.’
It was at this point that the staff member ran to get Kevin, and explained to him the worsening situation. ‘I left my meeting immediately to go and assist. I managed to get the customer to a comfy seating area, and drawing on my First Aid skills, I started my primary assessment, taking in the customer’s situation. Crouching down so that I was at his level, and communicating with him as best as I could, I checked to see if he had a medical card or band that was visible. I asked him questions, partly to try and get some information, but also to check for any long pauses or distant looks.’
Kevin quickly established that the customer was diabetic. ‘He hadn’t eaten much, and had recently changed the frequency of his medication. I made him a high sugar drink, from water and packets of sugar, and gave him some chocolate biscuits and the sandwich from my lunchbox. He then – gradually – started to respond and come round.’
“When the paramedics re-took his blood levels, they couldn’t believe he was still breathing”
But the customer was slipping in and out of consciousness. ‘We’d already called 999 and were on the phone to the emergency services, who advised us that they’d be with us as soon as possible. They told us to keep him awake, but that if he did fall unconscious, to put him into the recovery position and keep his airway clear – something that had been taught on my course. I continued talking to him, but at the same time, completed a list of what he had told me – things like what he had eaten, his medication and how often he took it, so that when the paramedics arrived, I could pass this information onto them.’
Which is exactly what Kevin did when they arrived. ‘I gave them all the information I had, and then let them take over. I stayed with the customer, making sure he was OK and offering the paramedics assistance. They checked his vitals, and discovered that his blood levels were dangerously low, despite the food and drink he’d been given. He was given medication, and when the paramedics re-took his blood levels, they couldn’t believe he was still breathing.’
The customer was told that he needed to go to hospital, but was reluctant to go, and looked to Kevin for reassurance. ‘The customer didn’t want to go to hospital, because he was worried that he wouldn’t be allowed to go home unless someone was there. He had a phonebook with him, and let me call his relatives. His son lived in Brighton, and although he wouldn’t arrive for a good few hours, promised to come to his father’s aid. I managed to persuade the customer to go to hospital, and reassured him that his son would meet him there.’
“The team were over the moon to see him fully recovered. He was like a different person.”
The customer then left in an ambulance for the hospital, and later that day, Kevin called the customer’s home phone, where he spoke to the customer’s son. ‘He was so grateful. He told me that his father was still in hospital, but was on the mend, and asked for me to call again in a couple of days when he had been discharged, and could thank me himself.’
But Kevin didn’t need to wait a couple of days. The following day, the customer came into the branch himself, straight after being discharged from the hospital, to thank Kevin for saving his life. ‘I’d be lying if I said I didn’t choke up; I was so pleased to see how well he looked, and what a quick recovery he had made. The team were over the moon to see him fully recovered. He was like a different person.’
Kevin has since changed job roles, having progressed across the business to our Internal Audit function as a Senior Auditor. So what next? ‘Within my first week in my new role, I was made aware that my new building was looking for First Aid and Fire Marshall volunteers, so I’ve just been registered as one of the First Aid contacts. It means that I can continue to offer help and assistance to those in need, and keep my qualification relevant and my skills up-to-date.’
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