Graham's hobby literally saves lives
I love it that when you start chatting to people you never know what their story is going to be (they ALWAYS have a story). When I asked Graham (55) what he did in his spare time, I certainly wasn’t expecting this to be the reply!
“I’ve been volunteering as a search and rescue medic on the RNLI Thames lifeboat for about 6 years. It’s quite an adrenaline rush hurtling down the river at 40 knots, and helping somebody who’s in trouble is very grounding and rewarding.
I was introduced to it by a friend of mine who was a clinical lead for the RNLI who heard me talk at a conference about trauma and said I should be working on the lifeboat.
The Thames is a very very dangerous river
There’s a complete spectrum of people who need help - from people who have difficulties on boats, through to people trying to take their own lives, through to people who get cut off by the tide. The tidal Thames is a very very dangerous river.
There are all sorts of issues. People go out on party boats to have a good time, there are steep steps, they fall down them. People have heart attacks on boats and the ambulance can’t get to them. That’s our job.
The camaraderie between the volunteers - who are a mix of men and women - is very good. There’s lots of banter and a fair bit of jokey abuse too! You have to be able to rely on each other in a tight spot and we know we can do that. We’ve all been through exactly the same training and because we’re a very diverse mix of people, we all have different strengths.
It hard searching for a body at 3 in the morning with ice around your knees
I’m a military medic by background and I’m in the reserves, so I have a state of mind that helps me to cope with the emotional challenge of managing traumatic situations. A dark sense of humour definitely helps us through quite a lot. After a hard day at work, on a voluntary night shift, which is 12 hours, if you’re searching for a body at 3 in the morning and there’s ice forming on the deck around your knees it’s pretty challenging. But I love it. I wish I’d discovered it many more years ago. “
Fortunately not all the voluntary RNLI roles are as extreme as Graham’s! If you’d be interesting in finding out more about the volunteering opportunities in the organisation, click here
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