Meet Heather – First Aid Trainer at St John

An American love story brings Heather to Guernsey and St John.

We’re delighted to welcome Heather Fedak to the team at St John Training Services.

Heather who was born and brought up in the United States joins St John as one of our new First Aid Trainers. Heather has recently moved to Guernsey having trained and worked as a Paediatric Nurse Practitioner in a private practice in a small town south of Washington and managed clinics on foreign medical missions.

Heather’s journey to Guernsey started in Papua New Guinea. Having spent a period of time teaching first aid and helping with a vaccinations programme she joined a medical ship and witnessed some life changing experiences.

“I saw some incredible things that medicine alone can’t explain. There were kids who should’ve died, who made it through the night and a man who walked for the first time in years. It was all very strange. I saw things on that trip that I’d read about but didn’t believe could happen… until I saw it for myself”.

Heather say the events that followed were equally strange. The medical manager of the ship was a young woman from Guernsey.

“We struck up an amazing friendship. Before long she told me I had to meet her friend Adam, because she thought we were so alike. She even joked about marriage!

“After seeing each others posts on Facebook we started talking over the internet and after a few weeks we both got a feeling that this could be it even though we hadn’t even met each other. I eventually came to Guernsey for a visit and met Adam in person for the first time. After a few days it felt like I’d know him my entire life.”

Heather and Adam are now engaged and due to marry this summer. Although she misses her family in the United States and says leaving home was the hardest thing she has ever done, Heather is looking forward to making Guernsey her home and being a part of the St John Training team.

“It’s not all about doing perfect bandages. As a first aider your job is to keep calm, reassure the patient, stabilize the patient, prevent things from getting worse and knowing when to get help.”

Heather believes everyone should have basic first aid skills.

“As humans I think we have an instinct to want to help. If a loved one gets hurt we’re wired to do something. First aid training is about being able to provide that bit of knowledge and being proactive to help produce a better outcome for the patient. You may never use it, but if you ever have to, you’ll never regret learning it.”

Heather first got interested in medicine and emergency care as a child. Her uncle was in charge of the Emergency Room at a local hospital.

“He was the coolest, fun uncle. I always found his work fascinating and grew up wanting to be just like him. Initially I thought I would end up working in emergency medicine.”

At the age of sixteen, while still at high school, she trained as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) spent five years volunteering with her local ambulance service. Heather also worked at a kids summer camp where she looked after around five hundred children, dealing with everything from handing out medication and doing first aid to treating broken bones.

Having decided on medicine as a career, Heather went to nursing college to do a degree before going on to study for a Masters Degree and becoming qualified as nurse practitioner specialising in children’s medicine.

Paediatric is definitely were my heart is. I love kids, especially childhood developmental.”

In the American system the Paediatric Nurse Practitioner is similar to the combined roles of Health Visitor, GP and Community Nurse, which meant Heather was looks after children from birth, through all the development stages into childhood to the age of twenty-one.

“I like the continuity of care. In America I was doing everything from new born check-ups, vaccinations, checking on developmental milestones to diagnosing and treating chronic conditions. I walked alongside them and their families through all the developmental changes or diagnosis. I pretty much dealt with every condition, including childhood cancer.

For me it is important to be a part of the family going through these tough times. It’s important to allow kids to be kids and tell them it’s okay to cry – and it is just the same for parents. I’m still in touch with lots of my families now. They sometime still message me with questions and I get Christmas cards from them.”

As well as working in the US and Papua New Guinea, Heather also went on medical missions to Chile where she was in charge of running clinics with a Christian based organisation.

The healthcare system was virtually non-existent. We were just providing the most basic care. We didn’t have much to work with, so a lot of the time we were just trying prevent things getting worse. Sometimes missions can be seen as ‘go in, do good, feel good, go home’ – but that can do more harm than good. What we were trying to do was providing education and adjustment for the long-term.”

Heather started working for St John in January.