Life saver

Isobel Corrie ’19 had only just completed her BSc Adult Nursing course at Oxford Brookes when her lifesaving skills were needed – on the flight home from a holiday. Isobel won the Royal College of Nursing’s 2020 Patient Choice award after being nominated by the man she saved, James Birch.

Isobel chose to study at Oxford Brookes because it ticked all the boxes.

“I knew Oxford Brookes had a strong nursing department with really good clinical facilities and links with the hospitals. “she explains, “Also, I wanted to be in a historic city, so Oxford was perfect.”

And her course, both in class and on placements in healthcare settings, didn’t disappoint.

“The placements were real highlights – I enjoyed them all and learnt so much. The lectures were very good as well, with really down to earth and supportive teachers.”

Having completed her course successfully, with a graduation ceremony and a nursing job at Warwick Hospital to look forward, Isobel took a well deserved two week holiday in Thailand. On the flight home, her skills were suddenly and dramatically needed.

Administering CPR during a flight

Isobel takes up the story, “I had been chatting to the guy next to me and told him I was a student nurse. Then I went to sleep. Next thing I knew he was waking me up and telling me there’d been a call out on the tannoy for medical assistance.

“So once I’d woken up, I went over and could see right away that a man was having a cardiac arrest. He wasn’t breathing and I had to start CPR really quickly.

“I’d never done CPR on a real person before but we had been taught skill sessions called Basic Life Support every year at Brookes – practising on a dummy in the skills labs. So I had to think back to those sessions and what to do in this scenario.

“I ended up having to do compressions for 45 minutes to keep James alive. His partner, Julie, was there as well which was really difficult – normally you would help loved ones get away from the situation but there was no space and it was really traumatic for her to watch.”

Wondering if he survived

The plane made an emergency stop in Mumbai and James was taken to hospital. Isobel, meanwhile, was left in limbo, wondering if he had survived and, as a result, was unable to properly process or recover from what had taken place.

“I didn’t know what had happened for quite a long time. It was really hard because I didn’t know if I had done enough to save him.

“I tweeted the airline to try and find out but no-one got back to me. So I phoned them but they couldn’t give me any information.

“I just wanted to know what had happened. So I tweeted out the number and the date of the flight to see if anyone had any information. About three weeks later, James tweeted back!”

“It was so emotional”

Thanks to Isobel, he was alive and well. And at last, freed from the dreadful uncertainty, she could let her feelings flow.

“I was so overwhelmingly emotional. I cried. My family cried. It was so emotional.”

Isobel has stayed in contact with both James and Julie – becoming friends with them on Facebook and keeping in touch via phone.

“James kept me up to date with his progress, and they have both been really supportive when I started my job and then when I got Covid. I was quite unwell for a week or so but made a speedy recovery and was soon back at work.”

Working at Warwick Hospital

Isobel’s started work at Warwick Hospital as a Staff Nurse in the Gastrointestinal Ward, something which she greatly enjoys – and was what she had wanted to do after an especially good placement in a Gastrointestinal Ward at the Churchill Hospital in Oxford as a student.

As in so many hospitals, and indeed workplaces across many sectors, the Covid-19 pandemic has greatly affected the organisation of work at Warwick Hospital. But although Isobel is currently not doing so much of her ‘normal’ role – she is still loving being a nurse.

Friends supporting each other

She is also still in touch with many friends from her time as a student.

“I’ve got a really a strong group of friends from Brookes who all did nursing. They’ve gone to jobs across the UK but we still keep in close contact. We share how we’re coping with the pandemic – it’s variable in different parts of the country. We’re a comfort to one another if someone’s having one of those rubbish days that we all get sometimes, and then we have one of those really good days we share the highlights as well.”

Despite the pandemic, hopefully there’ll be many more good days than rubbish days ahead for Isobel and her nursing colleagues who continue to do so much to save lives and help people get through these difficult times.

Find out how Su Chantry is keeping Formula 1 safe in the pandemic >>

Hear how Bermuda TV star Jasmine Patterson’s passion for broadcasting started at Brookes >>

Renat Galyamov is a computer programmer and entrepreneur who enables people to access healthcare – read his inspiring story >>