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News Archive > General > Lifeguard saves life at 30,000 feet

Lifeguard saves life at 30,000 feet

By Warren Wilkins 3rd April 2019

Lifeguard saves life at 30,000 feet

A RNLI lifeguard from Newquay used his casualty care training to save a woman’s life at 30,000 feet.

Kerk Latham (right) was flying back from Sumatra in Indonesia when he spotted an elderly lady sat next to him was suffering from the symptoms of a hypoglycaemic episode, which occurs when there is not enough glucose, or sugar, in the blood.

The unresponsive woman was administered with a glucose pill and after about 25 minutes she came round from the potentially life-threatening condition.

Kerk, who was also sat next to his girlfriend on the flight, noticed the elderly lady had begun to act strangely soon after take off. The lifeguard was concerned and continued to keep an eye on her and after about 20 minutes alerted the flight attendants, who initially dismissed her behaviour as there was no obvious signs there was anything medically wrong.

A flight attendant offered Kerk and his girlfriend the opportunity to sit elsewhere on the plane, which they refused so he could continue to keep an eye on the lady. Kerk eventually managed to persuade a flight attendant to alert the doctor on the flight to take a look at her.

The doctor agreed with his diagnosis and the glucose pill was administered. The lifeguard received a round of applause from fellow passengers after the lady came round. The airline presented Kerk with a $75 voucher to show its appreciation.

Kerk said: “I was really concerned. Her behaviour was confused and erratic, which could be mistaken for being drunk, however the training I have had in casualty care meant that I spotted the symptoms of a hypoglycaemic episode.

This occurs when there is not enough glucose, or sugar, in the blood. If left untreated it can have severe and sometimes fatal consequences. I asked the flight attendants to ask if there was a doctor on board the plane and if they could provide a medical kit.

The GP on board agreed with my initial diagnosis, and I was able to take a blood sample to confirm. At this point the lady was unresponsive and the captain asked if he needed to land the plane. Thankfully by administering a glucose pill, after about 25 minutes the lady came round.

“Without a doubt the casualty care training I have done as part of my training to be an RNLI lifeguard ensured I was able to spot the symptoms early. I am really grateful that I was able to help the lady and thank goodness, if she hadn’t received the glucose when she did, it could have been fatal.”

RNLI lifeguards across Cornwall are currently completing their two-week induction training before starting back on the beaches for the Easter school holidays on April 6, which includes an intensive and comprehensive casualty care course that trains the lifeguards to be first responders to the ambulance service. Kerk will be back at Watergate where he is a senior RNLI lifeguard.

Mark Preim, RNLI lifeguard supervisor, said: “Kerk is one of the RNLI’s most experienced and professional lifeguards and while we’re all extremely impressed to know that he used his RNLI training to save a lady’s life, we’re not at all surprised. We’re really pleased to have him back on the beaches this season.”

By Warren Wilkins 3rd April 2019

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