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Unexpected hero saves a life

Daryl talks to Red Cross worker Jody Sachs about the first aid training he used to help save a friend's life.

In November 2011, Daryl took part in a pilot session of an innovative Red Cross first aid program, targeted at people with experiences of homelessness. Weeks later he used his first aid training to save the life of a friend.

Daryl is an Aboriginal man, a member of the Stolen Generation who grew up with a foster family and spent some of his youth sleeping rough in the parklands of Adelaide. It was at this time that he first began using the services of the Hutt St Centre, a day drop-in centre supporting people who are homeless or vulnerable in Adelaide's CBD.

Thanks to a pension and permanent housing, Daryl's visits to Hutt St are now only to use the art room, to volunteer for a street clean-up group and take part in activities such as the Red Cross first aid training hosted by Hutt St last year.

Prior to taking part in the first aid training Darryl had some apprehension because he has a tracheostomy, as a result of throat cancer treatment three years ago. The tracheostomy means he doesn't use his nose and mouth to breath and he covers the opening in his neck in order to speak.

"I didn't know if I could do it because of the trachie," says Daryl, "But no drama. and it was good fun. Basically it put a lot of confidence back into me after I had all this done," says Daryl, referring to his tracheostomy and throat cancer surgery.

Jody Sachs, the Red Cross worker who helped develop the training course, says they were able to show Daryl how to cover his trachiostomy to give the breaths during CPR or to do only the compressions when an ambulance is close at hand. She says the flexible and relaxed structure that works with the abilities of the trainees, is key to the success of the program.

"The essential part of the Streetwise first aid course is that, we've worked really hard to take all of the reading and writing out of the course content," says Jody. "The course is actually presented to people through story telling, acting, role playing, lots and lots of discussion about what people have experiences of out in the community and lots of [oral] questioning and demonstration in the assessment side of things."

Daryl agrees that the way the course was presented helped his comprehension and gave him confidence when it came to being assessed. "It came across so easy, it was in language you understood and there was no high handedness," says Daryl. "I know that I can do it, I've done it, I've got the certificate. I feel good you know.

A life-saving event

Daryl can certainly feel good about the fact that he helped to save the life a friend who had tried to take her own life. After finding their friend unconscious, Daryl's first aid knowledge helped him and his sister take action to save her life.

"We put her in the recovery position so that she didn't swallow everything because she had gear in her mouth because she'd been drinking, and all the gear came out of her mouth and we kept an eye on her until the ambos got there," says Daryl. "She's ok now which is good. Because I knew what to do, we saved her," he says.

Since piloting the service Red Cross has rolled out a new national resource kit to deliver Streetwise first aid training across the country. Red Cross works with partner agencies like the Hutt St centre and funding bodies to provide the free national certification in first aid to people with low literacy, limited income or poor experiences with the education system. In particular the training targets people who have experienced homelessness; a group who would normally never be able to access first aid training, despite the fact that they are more likely to encounter a situation where first aid could save a life.

Daryl agrees that first aid training is really important for people in situations similar to his. "Because of the situation with the homeless and drug use, alcohol abuse, if there's a situation that arises, you know what to do," says Daryl. "I mean if you've got the skills to be able to help someone, to save someone's life, I'd say do it!"


Photo: Clive Taylor (Australian Red Cross)

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