St John's Ambulance are running a series of ads about the importance of learning CPR/basic first aid at the moment, and how people die because of that lack of knowledge.
This is cutting a bit too close to me, because I saw it happen just over a week ago. Each time I see one of those ads, I get a chill.
I was on an SNCF TGV train at the start of my holiday. An announcement came over the tannoy: "If there is a doctor, or anyone with medical skills on board, please come to carriage 1 where a passenger is ill". TGVs are split in 2 (and the number often don't run in order). You can't get to 1 from where I was in 16. So I stayed where I was.
A few minutes later, another announcement: "Would anyone with medical skills please come to coach 11, not coach 1, as the passenger still requires assistance." That I could get to, so I went.
I found a cluster of guys around an elderly, unconcious man on the floor in the recovery position. I said "I'm not a doctor, but I'm a first aider. What happened?"
"He collapsed, so we put him in the position".
The recovery position is of no help to someone who's not breathing. I confirmed he wasn't, and started CPR.
To cut a long story short, it didn't work. Even when some sort of paramedic appeared from elsewhere on the train shortly after.
Would it have helped if I'd have got there earlier, or if the people nearby had known the limits and use of the recovery position, or how to perform CPR? I don't know.
But it might have.