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This Sussex Life: Jane Fairhall, ERT volunteer - "If you see me with a big green bag, you’ll know I’m on a shout”

Jane Fairhall with her "big green bag" of emergency first-aid equipment

Jane Fairhall combines her day job in the University’s admissions office with attending medical incidents as part of the Emergency Response Team (ERT).

I joined the Emergency Response Team in 2011 after seeing a story on the website looking for volunteers. It was something completely out of my comfort zone. You’re obviously dealing with people who could be quite distressed or upset, and that’s not something I thought I would do, but actually I enjoy it.

Initially I went on a three-day first aid course and I retrain every couple of years. We also receive training by St John Ambulance on things like administering oxygen and checking respiration. There are nine of us spread across campus and we fit this in around our day job, which has to take priority. My job is senior undergraduate admissions co-ordinator, which means I’m dealing with student applications. That can be pretty busy and stressful at certain times of the year.

When someone on campus dials 3333, the emergency number, the ERT are radioed. If I’m nearby and I’ve signed in for that day, then I’ll attend.  We don’t get told at that point what the emergency is, but if it is very serious, a heart attack for example, the Security team will automatically call for an ambulance. Security will also meet the paramedics at the entrance to campus and then take them to the incident. 

We do what we can until the paramedics arrive. We have portable cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) machines, oxygen and Entonox tanks, and first-aid kits full of stuff. If you see me with a big green bag, you’ll know I’m on a shout.

We get shouts for all sorts, from minor cuts and burns, to incidents serious enough for all of us to attend. I once attended a woman in the final stages of labour. The paramedics arrived just in time. With students, maybe they have woken feeling poorly or with an injury because of something they have done the night before.  Or we might get a call because someone is having a panic attack in an exam. We try to take them out of the exam room and calm them down. That’s all you can do until the invigilators decide whether they can go back into the exam.

A couple of years ago there was a women’s rugby match. It was a particularly wet day and one of the players had slipped and dislocated her shoulder. While we were calling an ambulance for her, another team member fell with a hurt ankle. And then another one went down with a neck injury. We were running all over the pitch trying to attend to them until Health and Safety closed down the game.

We’re often busy during Freshers’ Week and the Welcome Weekend. There was an occasion when a student had hurt his neck on a trampoline. I’m quite short and I couldn’t get onto the trampoline to see to him. People were trying to lob me on. Everyone was in stitches. Eventually I did get on, and fortunately the student was all right. Every year we get at least one shout where parents have cut themselves opening up packs of cheap kitchen knives.

Within the team we all have things that we don’t like dealing with.  I don’t like vomit, but I don’t mind eyeballs (I used to work in an optician’s). We have training sessions all together so that when we do attend incidents we know what each other is thinking and doing. I like to think of myself as being level headed and organised within the team, keeping my head with what’s going on

People are so reassured and grateful that we have turned up. We are caring and we discuss what’s happening with them, especially if they have to go to hospital. It’s also nice to hear back from them afterwards to see how they’re doing. 

Becoming a member of the ERT team has enhanced my job because it has given me more confidence and helped me meet more people. And having that little bit of knowledge has helped when I’ve been out and about at weekends. I now know what to do if I see someone collapse.

This profile is part of our This Sussex Life series.

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By: Jacqui Bealing
Last updated: Friday, 14 June 2019