Eight years on from playing her part in saving someone’s life, a Northampton woman wants to ensure first aid training is available in schools.
It was in 2015 that Joanna Ranson and her team at the Mounts Baths Swimming Pool saved Michael Meaden’s life – and he is now a healthy 79-year-old.
Joanna was a lifeguard at the time and Michael came swimming in the morning as he normally would.
Having been in the pool only 10 minutes after he started his early morning swim, Michael began to feel unwell and breathless.
After deciding to complete one more length, he left the pool and immediately collapsed face down. Joanna raised the alarm and a number of staff members came to the poolside.
Joanna noticed Michael was agonal breathing, also known as abnormal, and she knew she needed to start CPR.
One of Joanna’s colleagues started CPR while she got the defibrillator from the office and when it was placed on Michael’s body, it was advised to shock him.
Within seconds, Michael was trying to sit up and began talking as if nothing had happened. The realisation that he had had a heart attack soon set in.
He was taken straight to theatre when he arrived in hospital, where he had an ICD fitted – and this was recently replaced two weeks ago.
Joanna, who has since founded JR First Aid Training, wanted to highlight the importance of defibrillators in busy, public places and that well-trained individuals can save lives.
She said: “One thing that stands out to me after the incident was when Micheal’s wife said to me 'not only did you save Mick's life, you have saved mine too' – that’s something I will never forget.”
Michael’s ICD has given him another eight healthy years of life, spent with his wife Barbara.
Joanna described her relationship with Michael and Barbara as “lovely” and says they will “always share a special bond”.
They regularly meet to catch up over dinners, coffee and cake, and afternoon tea.
Through her first aid business, Joanna has made courses affordable and accessible to all – and is in the process of getting fun and engaging sessions into schools across the town and county.
“People often don’t know what to do or they freeze,” said Joanna. “They wish they’d known what to do as a different outcome could sometimes have been the case.
“I want to get the word out there that first aid isn’t just for the workplace, it is for everyday life.”
Since playing a role in saving Michael’s life, Joanna has also been the first at the scene of a serious car accident on the M1 – and was heavily praised by the emergency services for how she took control of the situation before they arrived.
“The next generation needs to know that having these skills is a matter of life or death,” Joanna added.
“You might not be able to make someone better but you can prevent a situation from getting worse. Minutes can be saved before the emergency services arrive.”
Joanna described helping to save someone’s life as an “outstanding” feeling, particularly with the close relationship she has maintained with Michael and Barbara since.
Not only was Joanna a lifeguard at The Mounts, but she taught swimming classes and delivered monthly team training to give her colleagues the confidence to act in a situation like she was in.
She began as a lifeguard when she was around 18 years old and spent up to six years at The Mounts, until she decided to set up her own business.
Joanna has now run JR First Aid Training for a decade, visiting leisure centres, hotels, gyms and any place that needs and wants first aid training delivered.
Some of the individuals who have been trained by Joanna have needed to use their first aid skills in real life scenarios, and it has been their “confidence and knowledge” that enabled them to act quickly.
The business owner’s next focus is getting first aid courses into schools, which she began doing before the pandemic – but that was soon put to a halt.
“It is a luxury to have first aid training now,” said Joanna. “But you never know when you might need to save someone’s life.”
To make the training engaging for children, Joanna introduced ‘Fun First Aid with Russ’. She takes her teddy dog into schools to teach the young people the basics.
This varies across how to call the emergency services, to how to treat someone who is not breathing or is choking.
Joanna said: “Even if it’s just getting on the phone to the emergency services, they’ve done what they need to do.”
From her experience before the pandemic, Joanna says the training works best for year three pupils and upwards – as they remain focused over the course of the hour to 90 minutes.
Joanna is also pleased to have visited a number of football clubs, following news of players collapsing on pitches.
She stressed the importance of recognising what to do when someone is breathing abnormally, as the fellow players on the pitch will be the first ones to be able to help.
Finally, Joanna also holds parent and baby classes. These educate families about what to do if a baby chokes or stops breathing, and gives them the confidence to act while waiting for the emergency services.