Local volunteer is one in a million

Christine McCormack
Christine McCormack

SHE is one of 300,000 members worldwide, but to those she helps six days a week, Christine McCormick is one in a million.

And her life-saving skills as a long-term, dedicated volunteer with St John Ambulance were quickly put into action last summer when a man in a caravan park in Kilkeel suffered a heart atttack just as the Banbridge woman glanced out of her caravan window.

Christine, who also works full-time as a nurse at the Royal Victorial Hospital, Belfast, was able to recognise the signs and keep the man calm while she rang for medical assistance.

“I saw he was pale and clammy and clasping his chest. I’m just glad I happened to look out of the caravan window at the right time,” she says. “I learned afterwards he had suffered quite a severe heart attack and had been brought straight to theatre to have two stents fitted.”

While dealing with injuries is always a possibility every time Christine and the team at the Banbridge branch of St John Ambulance attend various sporting and community events, she is always aware that such dramatic episodes can strike at a moment’s notice while ‘off duty’ too.

Not that the superintendent of Banbridge St John Ambulance has much of that, in between working in the diabetic clinic at the Royal and then spending her weekends tending to the sick and wounded.

Now she is also managing to fit in some driving lessons after husband Paul bought her a car and decided that, at the age of 46, it was time his wife learned to drive.

Unsurprisingly, Christine, who keeps fit with Zumba classes and walking her dog, just hadn’t been able to squeeze in the time to get behind the steering wheel up until now.

“Life is very busy,” she admits, “but I really enjoy being part of the St John Ambulance team and it feels great when you can help people, sometimes in life-changing and life-saving ways.

“We attend lots of varied events which can range from a football match in Portadown or St Patrick’s Day parade in Newry, to Buskfest in Banbridge, so you get the chance to meet lots of different people and the respect and support for St John Ambulance in the Banbridge area is very high.

“It makes me proud to wear the uniform and to know that people hold us in high regard. They are also very supportive financially and just before Christmas our Tesco collection in Banbridge raised £710, while a street collection brought in £365.”

A nominee in the Leader’s recent ‘Pride of Banbridge’ Awards, Christine first started as a nine year-old cadet with the assocation which stretches back to 1877 in the UK, before rejoining as an adult after a friend mentioned that the Banbridge group had a vacancy for a nursing officer.

“I thought it was just a short-term thing, but it wasn’t and 17 years later I am still here,” she says. “My husband and son Nathan don’t see a lot of me during really busy periods when we can be out nearly every night of the week, but being a cadet with St. John Ambulance inspired me to become a nurse, so now my job is also my hobby.

“Sunday morning is sort of ‘catch-up’ time in our house and then each Monday evening the St John Ambulance group meets at the Southern Regional College.

“We had a big recruitment drive recently and now we have around 30 members, but more are always welcome and we also need new Cadet and Badger leaders for the younger people coming through.

“First aid training is important no matter what age you are and St John Ambulance run excellent courses covering CPR, the recovery position and how to deal with bleeds and fractures.

“You never know the moment you could be called upon to help someone in a moment of crisis and it could literally mean the difference between life and death.”

And she’s not ruling out putting her current driving lessons to good effect with the charity either: “I hope I turn out to be good driver,” she adds. “You never know, I could end up driving the van for St John Ambulance as well.”

Anyone who would like to join or find out more about the organisation can contact divisional officer Liz Hudson on 07870607142.