St John Ambulance volunteer from Warboys is recognised for his life-saving heroics at awards ceremony

Left to right: Buddy, Lewis, Jim, Kirsty and Bonnie. Rear: Jim's wife, Tina.

Left to right: Buddy, Lewis, Jim, Kirsty and Bonnie. Rear: Jim's wife, Tina. - Credit: Archant

A St John Ambulance trainer from Warboys who saved the life of his neighbours’ two-year-old son has been crowned the East region’s ‘Volunteer of the Year’ in the charity’s annual Everyday Heroes awards.

The St John Ambulance Everyday Heroes Awards celebrates ordinary people who’ve taken extraordinary action to help someone in need.

Each finalist has been nominated for their heroic life saving skills or unstinting commitment to ensuring more lives are saved through first aid.

Regional winners in the ‘Volunteer of the Year’ category were chosen by public vote.

Jim Smith, 65, was nominated for an award after he saved the life of toddler Buddy Mulholland who suffered a febrile convulsion and stopped breathing.

It was the evening of January 28 and Buddy appeared to be suffering from the same hand, foot and mouth viral infection that the local GP had diagnosed in his nine-month-old sister earlier that day.

His mum Kirsty gave him some medication to bring down his temperature before putting him to bed. She’d just finished reading him his bedtime story when he started fitting.

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“His eyes rolled back in his head and his jaw was locked,” said Kirsty. “I ran downstairs with him, shouting at my husband Lewis to call an ambulance. Everything was a blur at the time but all I could think of was that I had to get him to my neighbour who works for St John Ambulance.”

Without stopping to put her shoes on, Kirsty ran across her garden to Jim’s home two doors away but Buddy had stopped breathing before she got there.

Jim, who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer last year, was at home convalescing from recent surgery to remove his pancreas and spleen.

“My wife Tina and I were watching television when there was a knock at the door and there was Kirsty with Buddy who was lifeless and not breathing, he said.

“I grabbed the child and put him on the floor to assess him. He was completely unresponsive so I started resuscitation while Tina was looking after Kirsty. I gave him a couple of rescue breaths but didn’t get as far as chest compressions as he gave a sudden gasp and started breathing again.

“He opened his eyes and I called to his mum that he was OK. But then he lost consciousness again so I put him in the recovery position while we waited for the ambulance to arrive.”

Jim had been told by his doctors to ‘take things easy’ after his operation. He pulled a stomach muscle while reviving Buddy and has since started chemotherapy to destroy any remaining cancer cells.

He says: “I just did what needed to be done. It was lucky I was at home. If this had happened a week before Christmas I’d have been in the intensive care unit recovering from surgery.”

Jim has worked for St John Ambulance since 1988. As one of the charity’s workplace trainers, he teaches first aid to employees of local businesses and he’s also Safeguarding Manager for St John Ambulance’s East Region, responsible for the safety and welfare of young volunteers and vulnerable adults.