For those who are trained first aiders, would you have the confidence to perform CPR on a stranger or loved one? It’s a question that most of us are reluctant to ponder, but one we should all think about.

A YouGov study conducted in 2014 for the British Heart Foundation revealed the competency of first aiders; only 22 percent said they would have the confidence to perform CPR on a stranger; 29 percent said they would for friends or family. Of course, no one really knows what they’d do until an incident unfolds in front of them.

Carl Bowers, a chef from Canvey Island, was put in this situation merely one week after completing an Emergency First Aid at Work course. On Monday 4th July 2016, shortly after 10am, Carl was driving out of Canvey Island when he encountered a van driver who had suffered a cardiac arrest at a busy junction near Basildon.

Speaking to CPL Training, Carl said: “I was driving my car when I noticed a white van in front of me that wasn’t driving normally. He slowed down at the green light and started to roll back towards my car. I overtook him to look into his window, and he was slumped over the steering wheel.”

I opened the van door, and there he was gasping for air every 20 seconds or so. Within seconds he just stopped breathing. Another fella pulled up next to me, and we managed to get him out of the van onto a soft area by the roadside. We then performed mouth-to-mouth CPR.”

Carl kick-started the man’s heart in those crucial minutes whilst emergency services raced to the scene. Soon after, his heart crashed once more as the air ambulance, police and fire brigade arrived at the busy junction. Paramedics shocked him four times to get him back into sinus rhythm and then took him to the nearby Basildon Hospital.

Admitting that normally he would have been out of his comfort zone, Carl believes his recent first aid training spurred him on to act and undertake the necessary procedures immediately.

“The training gave me the intelligence to know exactly what to do and what to look for. If I hadn’t have done the course, I would have been a fish out of water. The training I received from Dave [the trainer] gave me the confidence. From the moment I opened the van door, I knew what was going to happen, especially from the way he was breathing. Dave explained that 9 times out of 10 during a cardiac arrest signs like these occur. The training played a major, major part in why the man is going to make a full recovery,” added Carl.

The van driver, who was in his 40s, underwent immediate heart surgery and stayed in the intensive care unit for three days. Carl, who took some days off work to reflect on the incident, was told later that week the man was going to make a full recovery.

As statistics from the YouGov study suggest, the need to increase awareness and provide high-quality training is paramount in creating more life-savers, like Carl. Although the majority of first aiders will go through their lives without having to perform CPR, Carl’s story puts things into perspective, demonstrating how it can happen to anyone, at any time.