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17-year-old makes heroic rescue

How would you react in a medical emergency? Would you freeze, flee or have the presence of mind to react calmly and rationally? How much more of a challenge would it be if you are first on the scene and you live with an intellectual disability?

Thanks to the quick-thinking of a 17-year-old girl in one of MacKillop’s Intensive Therapeutic Care (ITC) houses, a medical emergency ended happily.

In November last year, 48-year-old Carolyn Tanner was providing refuge to nine puppies who had been evacuated from bush fires. Carolyn, from Grafton, is receiving treatment for Meniere’s Disease, which affects the inner ear and can cause debilitating spells of dizziness and nausea. On an exceptionally hot day, Carolyn was experiencing severe symptoms of Meniere’s, but as she passed a window on her way to lie down, she saw the puppies escaping her yard. A teenage girl who was passing by stopped to usher the puppies back into the yard. Carolyn was making her way out to help, but as she got to the bottom of the steps she collapsed and passed out.

When she regained consciousness, she realised that someone was pulling her into shade. The young girl made sure she was lying comfortably, cradled her head as Carolyn slipped in and out of consciousness and calmly told her she would be OK. She located Carolyn’s phone, unlocked it by using facial recognition and called the first number listed, explaining the situation and giving the address to Carolyn’s daughter who answered the call.

Carolyn’s daughter asked the young girl to call Carolyn’s partner who was working nearby and could get there quickly to take Carolyn to hospital and receive medical assistance.

While waiting for help to arrive, the young girl reassured Carolyn and kept talking to her to let her know she would be OK.

“She asked if I was in any pain and made sure I was as comfortable as possible in the shade. It was so hot that day, that I know I would have been in real trouble if I had remained passed out in the hot sun for any length of time.

“I clearly remember the kindness and concern in her voice. She stroked my hand to reassure me that I would be OK, telling me that she would stay with me and help would be with us soon. Her quick thinking to get my daughter on the phone meant that my partner could get to us in time to get me to hospital,” added Carolyn.

Carolyn contacted MacKillop so that she could meet with and thank the young woman who came to her rescue.

“I want people to know about the empathy and kindness this young girl showed to me and how her quick thinking and initiative in a high-pressured environment saved my life. If she hadn’t stopped to rescue the puppies, I dread to think what would have happened to me that day!”

ITC Case Worker, Hellen Brugnatti, was thrilled that Carolyn told them about her experience.

“So often young people in care are stigmatised and people have completely the wrong perceptions about the young people we work with.

“We know they are heroes and it’s great to see the wider community experience how caring and smart our young people can be. We are very proud of the young woman who helped Carolyn and we know that living with an intellectual disability can bring its own challenges, but this young woman doesn’t let it hold her back and she always shows compassion and care for those around her,” said Hellen.

MacKillop is planning a special event to honour the young woman and the initiative she displayed in going out of her way to help a member of the community in a crisis.

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