Volunteers' Week Blog

suzi brent

This week is the 30th anniversary of Volunteers’ Week, and we want to thank our 20,000 plus volunteers who work year-round to provide first aid in communities up and down the country. Hear from our volunteers, in their own words, about what their role means to them.

Suzi Brent, First Aider

What does it mean to be a first aider?  It means many things. 

It means that you are skilled in the hopeless task of resuscitating plastic mannequins.

It means you cannot look at a triangular piece of cloth without mentally folding it into a sling.

It means you may get the chance to put a bandage on the odd celebrity knee – Katie Price’s, in my case.

It means you are a familiar, reassuring face present at all sorts of public events, waiting to give out plasters, offer first aid advice, or even save a life. 

I joined my local St John Ambulance unit ten years ago in search of some valuable experience to help me move into a medical career - I’m now a dispatcher for the London Ambulance Service.  The comprehensive training I received to become a first aider taught me what to do as the first person on scene for a range of emergencies, such as: seizures, burns, diabetic problems, broken bones or cardiac arrest. 

But as I moved from the training room to front line duty at events (such as Trooping the Colour, London Marathon and Premier League football matches) I realised that the little things are just as important as the big things. Whether it’s a kind word, sticking a plaster, or helping a person to their feet after a tumble, a first aider needs to be able to provide all these things as well as deal with life-or-death emergencies. And we always need to be prepared, because we never know what situation will come next.

Once, I was called to an elderly gentleman who just seemed to have stumbled whilst leaving a church service. He wasn’t hurt and someone just wanted me to quickly make sure he was okay.  But I quickly realised something wasn’t quite right.  His face was grey and clammy, and when I asked him a few questions he told me that he’d been having pains in his left arm and shoulder throughout the service. My training kicked in, and it quickly became apparent to me that he may have suffered a heart attack. We called an ambulance and he was quickly taken to hospital.

So, being a first aider means being there for the public. It means being able to make a difference, big or small.

To learn more about Suzi’s role, please visit our Volunteering section. The Volunteers’ Week is an initiative of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations.