St. John Ambulance honours first aid heroes

Matt Gardner
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The Saskatchewan Branch of St. John Ambulance officially recognized several individuals on Wednesday evening for their live-saving use of first aid.

St. John Ambulance, Saskatchewan Branch, presented its Life-Saving Awards and Certificates of Commendation on Wednesday evening to area residents who have saved lives using first aid. From left to right: John Laliberte Jr., Jack McKenzie, John Laliberte Sr., Kirstin Trimble and Kathleen Nemeth.

Each person received one of two honours: The Life-Saving Award is given for assisting someone through first aid, while the Certificate of Commendation recognizes those who help someone without using first aid.

“Basically, the reason why we have these events is to promote first aid and the importance of it, and that individuals are up-to-date with their first aid -- and if they’re not, to call their local St. John Ambulance to do so,” St. John’s director of community service Josh Haugerud said.

Together, the awards acknowledged the efforts of seven individuals in three separate incidents.

Certificates of Commendation were awarded to John Laliberte Sr., John Laliberte Jr. and Jack McKenzie for a rescue on July 4, 2011. The three were paddling on the North Saskatchewan River when they saw a woman struggling in the water. By manoeuvring around the woman and grabbing hold of her arm, they were able to assist her until Prince Albert police arrived on the scene.

One of St. John’s own, first aid and CPR instructor Kathleen Nemeth, received a Life-Saving Award for her role in helping a man who was stung by a bee and suffered an anaphylactic reaction near Melfort on Aug. 6, 2011.

“This lady came up to me and asked if I had an EpiPen because her son-in-law, who’s allergic to bees, was just stung, and with my experience and training I knew that wasn’t a good thing,” Nemeth said. “So I immediately went because I expected that this was not going to go very well, and when I got there he was still breathing, but he was struggling a lot.

“When he stopped breathing, then I started artificial respiration and taking a pulse and realized he didn’t have one. I had two helpers (who) arrived right at that moment and they started CPR, and we did CPR for a couple minutes, and all of a sudden he had a pulse again, so we were pretty excited. He remained unconscious or unresponsive, but he was breathing on his own.”

Nemeth had the assistance of nurse Marilyn Kiefer and lab worker Kathryn Carswell, who were staffing a nearby concession stand. The three women took care of the victim until an ambulance arrived.

The reason why we have these events is to promote first aid and the importance of it. Josh Haugerud

Kiefer and Carswell also received the Life-Saving Award, but were unable to attend yesterday’s ceremony in Prince Albert.

The third rescue occurred on Sept. 3, 2011, when SIAST student Kirstin Trimble helped a local youth who had been hit by a car and was sprawled out bleeding on the road.

“I could hear slight noises and he was still breathing, but he wasn’t responsive to be able to talk,” Trimble said. “So I just kind of told him who I was and what I was going to do and kind of checked to see what was broken. There were things I could see were obviously broken, and then I noticed that he had stopped breathing because his airways had gotten clogged with blood clots just from internal bleeding. So I ended up having to remove the blood clots from his mouth and throat and everything.”

Expunging the clots with her bare hands, Trimble managed to get the victim breathing again before an ambulance took him away.

Until Wednesday, the last news she had heard was that he was in critical condition at a Saskatoon hospital.

“I found out I was getting the award and they didn’t have any information on it,” Trimble said. “So I didn’t find out until the officer came tonight and told everyone that he had survived. So that was a shock, but a very good shock to find out that I actually did help somebody survive.”

Award recipients said they felt honoured by the recognition, but that no one had thought of any such recognition when they initially decided to help.

Nemeth said the awards underscored the importance of learning first aid skills.

“If there’s one message that I can give to the public, (it) is to come to the St. John office building and get trained,” she said. “We never know when, where (or) what will happen, and I certainly wasn’t expecting to be doing anything that day. I’m always prepared. I have my gloves with me, my airway barrier, because that’s my training -- and it happened.”

Organizations: Prince Albert, Saskatoon hospital

Geographic location: North Saskatchewan River, Melfort

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