Meet the Doncaster nurses springing into action to save lives while on holiday

Doncaster mum Carol Orr was queueing up at the Matalan store on Wheatley Hall Road.

By David Kessen
Wednesday, 26th February 2020, 9:58 am

As she waited, she saw a pensioner looking a little unsteady on her feet. She called her over and invited her in front of her in the queue, as she appeared to have only a few items in her basket.

As they spoke, it become clear the woman was not feeling well.

What happened next, just two months ago, may have saved the woman’s life.

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Carol Orr, emergency nurse practitioner

She was wobbling on her feet, and seeing lights before her eyes. But Carol sprang into action.

She shouted for someone to bring her some sweets – and started to feed them to the woman, who was starting to lose consciousness.

Carol had grabbed some from next to the tills. “I think people probably thought I was stealing them,” she said.

But the woman was starting to come round again. She was taken away to sit down and Carol sent someone to pick her up a sandwich from a nearby Greggs, and waited with her#

Doncaster nurses Carol Orr and Gail Eden, have both been called on to help save lives while off duty

as her condition improved.

The shopper who had been taken ill was lucky. She had just bumped into emergency nurse practitioner Carol, aged 50, a Doncaster Royal Infirmary nurse with 30 years of experience on the wards under her belt.

From speaking to the pensioner, she had figured out that she was diabetic and was at risk of falling into a coma because of her low blood sugar levels. The sweets gave those levels a quick hit, with the sandwich giving her the carbohydrates needed to make some of her own.

Carol said: “The most urgent things come to mind. There are a few things that tend to cause people to collapse, like low blood pressure, diabetes and heart attacks. Luckily we were near the tills and the sweets. Without those she would have collapsed, and there would have been a medical emergency. There would have been a 999 emergency, and she could have gone into a coma. If untreated it can lead to death.”

Volunteer 'patient' Ryan Farbrace, and Carol Orr, education lead for medicine and emergency nurse practitioner, at the We Care - Into the Future health careers event at Doncaster Dome

It is not the first time that Carol has had to spring into action, and she is not alone.

Today, we are shining a spotlight on the work she and her colleagues do as part of a new campaign in support of our health workers, Love Your NHS. We will be highlighting some of the extraordinary work carried out by those who work in our hospitals and medical practices.

Carol is now also education lead at the Doncaster and Bassetlaw Teaching Hospitals Trust, which runs the hospital. She promotes and encourages people to go on first aid courses, and believes her experiences show why it is so useful.

Her office at the DRI contains some of the tools of her trade on the education site of the job, such as a skeleton. She even creates her own prosthetic limbs to use to teach about first aid, including broken limbs, and artificial rubber ‘stab wounds’ which can be attached to a volunteer with a belt.

“I’m passionate about what I do,” she said. Her enthusiasm has been passed on to her son, Ryan, a first responder whose ambition is to become a paramedic.

“As a medical professional, when you qualify, you’re given a number on the nursing and midwifery register,” she said. “Part of the deal is that you can’t walk past someone on the street who is clearly in trouble medically. But you have to be careful and work within your own skills, and not cause any damage.”

Carol has found emergencies can happen at any time. Another incident happened a few years ago while she was on holiday. She was near the swimming pool at the hotel where she was staying, when she heard worried voices calling for a medic. She rushed to see what was going on.

There was a figure unconscious at the bottom of the pool.

He was pulled from under the water, and by the time he was on the surface he was looking blue. After over-ruling the concerns of a less qualified first aid volunteer about moving him, she brought him back from the brink. The water was out of his lungs and after resuscitation he came round coughing and spluttering.

“He got up and told me to eff-off and walked off. He’d been drinking a lot of alchol and had jumped into the pool and hit his head,” she said.

Things do not always have a happy ending though. She tried to help someone who suffered a heart attack at a funeral, but the patient later died on that occasion, despite Carol’s efforts.

Carol is not alone. Working with her in the education team is nurse Gail Eden.

Gail, 49, is another vastly experienced nurse, and when the need has arisen, she too has sprung into action in dramatic circumstances.

For Gail, one of the most dramatic experiences came on a flight from Doncaster to Turkey, two years ago. She is not a keen flyer, but had overcome her nerves to get onto the jet.

Two hours into the flight, she heard a scream from behind. She looked round to see what was happening.

A shout came out in broken English: “Is there a medic on board?”

She kicked off her flip-flops and made her way to the shout, explaining who she was and what she did for a living.

Gail found the cause of the concern was a young woman who has lost consciousness and was startling to look blue. She was with her very worried mother.

Despite the lack of space on the busy aircraft, Gail opened the patient’s airways, and successfully worked to start her breathing again. There was little working medical equipment on board the flight, but there was a blood pressure machine. The young woman had fallen forward and pressed down on her diaphragm, causing her to stop breathing. There had been other factors involved including medication, and drinking alcohol.

The aircraft completed its journey to Turkey, with Gail observing the patient.

“The cabin crew had been asking if the plane needed to divert,” she said. “It didn’t divert, but I did ask them to have medical assistance available for her at the airport.”

“It is a calling and a job as well as a livelihood,” said Carol. “We can’t walk by.”