Like thousands of people my age, I took a ‘gap year’ between school and university. People take gap years for a variety of reasons. To save money, to travel, to get experience in a particular industry, or to practice a language before they head off to university. I spent most of my gap year working – first as a lifeguard at a local swimming pool, and then in China as a teacher.
During the first half of my gap year, one of my closest friends and I decided to make use of the paid holiday our new full-time jobs provided, and book a holiday. We decided to book a cheap holiday in September, when the weather would still be relatively warm. Searching through our options at the local travel agent (this was well before the days of online booking) we decided upon an 18-30s trip to Faliraki – a tacky resort on the Greek island of Rhodes.
The holiday started well. We boarded a train to Gatwick from Reading, only to spot a couple of hot guys get on at Slough. The guys proceeded to get off at airport with us, follow us to the same check-in desk, and then end up at the same departure gate. We boarded the same plane, and a few hours later, ended up on the same shuttle bus from the airport. When the guys got off at the same hotel, and ended up checking in to the neighbouring room, we couldn’t believe our luck!
It was a quiet time of year in Faliraki … probably because most of their normal clientele were now back at school! And so we quickly got to know most of the other holiday-makers. My friend Nikki and I quickly became known as ‘the lifeguards’, with multiple jokes around the pool about mouth to mouth.
In the evenings, most of the entertainment revolved around drinking. Midway through the week there was an ‘all-you could drink’ night, with a cabaret of entertainment. We settled at a table, drinking cocktails of cheap, white label booze, and watched a variety of acts on stage. And then a comedian came on stage. By this point of the night, we were all pretty wasted. The comedian began telling a joke about his raving days, and all the drugs he’d done in his teens. And then he fell to the ground and began having a seizure.
It took us a few moments to realise it wasn’t part of the act. I remember people nervously laughing, unsure what was going on. And then he just lay there. ‘Charly, he’s not breathing!’ Nikki noticed. The pair of us ran to the stage, reality sobering us quickly. As we approached the stage, 18-30s staff tried to shoo us away. ‘We’ve called an ambulance, don’t touch him!’ ‘But he needs help!’ we argued – look at him, he’s not breathing. ‘Are none of you first aid trained?’ They weren’t, and they were adamant we shouldn’t touch him, in case something went wrong, and we would be held liable. The man was literally lying on the stage, not breathing.
We pushed past the staff, ignoring their please to leave him alone, and rushed to the guy’s side. Nikki tipped back his head to open his airway. The man’s tongue had slipped down his throat during the fit, and was blocking his airway. We unblocked his airway, and waited to see if he took a breath. Thankfully he did. We put him in the recovery position, and waited for the ambulance to arrive, at which point we were ushered out of the club, along with the rest of the 18-30s tourists. The next day we were told the comedian was fine, and had made a full recovery.
This was back in 2002. I have no idea if 18-30s have since changed their policy on training staff in first aid, but I bloody well hope they have. The idea that you should leave someone alone, when he or she is not breathing, and wait for a non-existent ambulance (on an island where they are renowned for taking forever to come) is ludicrous. One simple move, and the man was breathing again. In my 5 years working as a life-guard, part-time during sixth form, full-time on my gap year, and then in university holidays, that 18-30s holiday was the only time I ever had to start CPR on someone.
I no longer work as a lifeguard, but ever two years I make sure I renew my first-aid qualification, because you never know when they might be useful, and when the smallest of gestures could end up saving someone’s life.
You could not make this sh*t up!