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Robert Courtnell

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Robert Courtnell

Robert Courtnell

Volunteering for St John's is an excellent step to achieving my ambition

Voluntary work can be very rewarding and enjoyable. Helping others and doing something productive can be a good way to boost self-confidence and help you back into a working routine.

We spoke to St John’s Ambulance First Aider Robert Courtnell, 29, from Luton, about how volunteering has helped him following brain injury.

How did you sustain your brain injury?

In May 2015 I was in a road traffic incident in New Zealand. I’d just played in a rugby match and we were planning on celebrating our 42-0 win by going to a party. However, on the way, our driver lost control and the car was sent tumbling off the road into a field.

I spent five weeks in hospital and a further six weeks in rehabilitation.


How long have you been working for St John’s Ambulance Service?

Since 2016


What made you want to be a first aider?

I enjoy meeting new people and hearing their stories. I enjoy the challenges that come with helping people.


What is the best thing about being a first aider?

The appreciation from the public, and the free ice-cream from ice-cream vans!

The best thing is knowing that I can assist in saving someone’s life should I need to. But, more commonly, just help make the individual’s current situation better by treating them effectively and efficiently.


What is the most challenging thing about being a first aider?

I’m always on “edge” waiting for someone who needs treatment. This means that at the end of a shift I’m exhausted, particularly when it’s been a long or busy duty.

The other challenge is the variety of treatment that could be required, ranging from a small cut to someone in need of resuscitation. I’ve had ample training for every situation but the unknown factor can be scary.

Do you think your brain injury helps you be a good first aider?

It makes me want to help others.

The treatment I received in rehabilitation in New Zealand made me appreciate those who helped me walk and live independently again.

I was bed bound when I first arrived to the rehab centre and through their hard work I was able to walk onto the plane back to England, unaided without crutches.

The efforts of the team who helped me inspire me to be a good first aider.

What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about volunteering following a brain injury?

Find whatever is it that you enjoy doing, and be generous devoting your time to it. Learning first aid has been something I wanted to be trained in and I want to go further.


What are your hobbies/interests?

I no longer play rugby so I’ve filled that void with playing golf, cycling and reading. I try to get out of the house when I can.


What hopes do you have for the future?

My dream has changed since the accident and I’m currently hoping to train and become a paramedic.

It might take a bit of time but I look forward to the challenge. Volunteering for St John’s is an excellent step to achieving my ambition.

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