Last month, Sarah Downs, from Stonehaven travelled to Macedonia for two weeks to teach critical response skills which will help save lives.
Volunteering for Operation Florian, a charity set up by British firefighters to save lives overseas, Sarah was part of the UK team that taught vital medical skills to local firefighters and identified their medical equipment needs. The charity was then able to send the essential equipment to the bases.
Sarah received an abundance of support from family, friends and her employer Bryant Group Scotland ahead of the trip, surpassing her fundraising target and reaching over £2,100 in donations. These funds will be donated to the charity to support the project.
The 25 year old said: “Operation Florian is championing some great projects across the world, and it was great to use the skills I gained during my four years in the Trauma Orthopaedic Unit at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary to contribute to their work. I have a huge passion for helping people, and have always wanted to do humanitarian work overseas, and when I spoke to Bryant they were happy to support me.
“Many of the towns and villages in Macedonia don’t have a paramedic service, so the firefighters are tasked with critical response healthcare on top of their firefighting duties.
“Some stations that I visited didn’t even have basic medical skills or supplies. Many didn’t have bandages, gloves, antiseptic or even stretchers, so I had to be creative in finding solutions. I ended up making tourniquets with material and a spanner, used ladders as stretchers, and planks of wood as spinal boards!
“Most of the local firemen didn’t know how to perform CPR or stop bleeding and, tragically, many previous deaths could have been prevented. Many of the towns and villages that we visited were in the mountains and often hours away from the nearest hospital, so time was against them when trying to save lives. Therefore, teaching the basics was vital.
“Having basic medical skills will help save lives, and our training and support combined with the charity’s equipment donation will hopefully put an end to preventable deaths.
“I am hugely thankful to all my friends, family and colleagues for their donations, as without their support the equipment donated to the project wouldn’t have been possible.”
Sarah was one of only three Scottish people on her team, and she worked with both professional and young volunteer firefighters. The charity is actively investing in young people, not only to assist the professionals when required, but to develop their skills early which will benefit them if they choose this as a career.
Since 2007, Operation Florian has been actively engaged in supporting local and national fire and rescue services, helping to reduce disaster risk and enhance essential emergency response services.