When Ian Radford and Steve Thurtell were asked by the Queensland Ambulance Service to raise awareness of CPR, little did their colleagues at the Whitsunday stations realise they’d be going for a world record attempt.
The QAS was targeting 10,000 people across the whole Mackay / Whitsunday region, but “Whitsunday decided to take a different approach and see if we could really heighten awareness by breaking a world record at the same time,” Steve Thurtell, Officer in Charge of the Whitsunday Ambulance Station said.
“I’d call it naive but it wasn’t without being calculated.”
That calculation was based on the fact about 2000 Schoolies were descending on Airlie Beach over the weekend of November 21-22 and when the record was broken on Sunday night it was certainly with their help.
“The Schoolies were just fantastic,” Mr Thurtell said.
“Without them and the organisers we couldn’t have done it – and maybe now they can tell all their friends they broke a world record at Schoolies as well.”
But despite the help from the Schoolies crowd, Sunday’s achievement was by no means an easy feat.
“World records are set because they’re bloody tough to beat and I knew how tough this was going to be when I was planning it with Steve,” Mr Radford said.
“We had massive nerves for two days building up to it – we couldn’t sleep or eat and the morning of (the attempt) it just seemed so far fetched.”
The Guinness World Record for the number of people participating in a CPR relay was broken just last month in the UK city of Manchester, where 800 people smashed the previous record of 701 set in Times Square, New York.
When the Whitsunday paramedics got to 140 people on Sunday morning “at least we could say it wasn’t a total fizz,” Mr Thurtell said.
And that figure kept rising – to 300, then 500, then 600.
“And when we got to 700, we thought, ‘we got this’,” Mr Thurtell said.
It was Mr Radford who actually broke the record at 801 – a record that turned into 863 people from 14 nations, performing 60 chest compressions each, with no more than five seconds off the mannequin in just over 10.5 hours.
“And I think the only thing we’re disappointed in is that after 863 people, the mannequin didn’t actually come to life,” Mr Radford joked.
Mr Radford and Mr Thurtell are now compiling all their evidence from the day and hope to have the record ratified in the near future.
They both paid tribute to all those who participated, thereby learning an important skill, and the Whitsunday paramedics who pulled it off.