Solihull girl to the rescue

A Solihull School army cadet came to the rescue when her instructor suffered a suspected stroke while white water rafting in Kenya

Leticia Salmon, a Sixth Former at the independent coeducational school, leapt into action as the only one on board able to recognise the signs and symptoms.

The 16-year old corporal in the school’s Combined Cadet Force (CCF) was taking part in Exercise Kenya Adventurer, an army-run mountaineering and charity challenge for which she was selected from hundreds of applicants.

Noticing that the 57-year-old officer was shaking uncontrollably and had trouble speaking, she brought her first aid training and experience to bear and immediately alerted the boat behind her carrying the tour leader.

Leticia took control of the situation and joined an all-male crew to paddle the instructor to shore as fast as possible where she comforted and looked after him.

“The officer was in shock and unable to control his thought processes, so I reassured him that he had had a stroke but would be all right,” Leticia said. “As he was shivering with cold, I removed his life jacket and helmet and wrapped him in a blanket, and then I brought back circulation to his fingers before the adults took him away to hospital in Nairobi.”

The instructor made a full recovery after two days in hospital where he was diagnosed as having had a TIA – a transient ischaemic attack or ‘mini stroke’.

“I knew from my training and my mother suffering a stroke two years ago that we needed to act fast to prevent the officer from having another more serious attack or from over balancing and having a life-threatening fall,” Leticia added.

The incident happened just days after Leticia, who is aiming for a career as a mental health nurse in the army after studying psychology at university, had helped to build a new nursery classroom for a village school in central Kenya.

Not only did she spend three days mixing cement, pointing brickwork and laying a floor at Thangathi Primary School, she also decided to solely fund a young girl from a poor family in the village through her secondary education.

“I chose to sponsor 14-year-old Janet Wombai from a number of deserving girls after her headmaster told me that she had great potential. I was also greatly impressed after reading her excellent school record,” Leticia said.

Leticia put the £1,000 she had raised towards the expedition from events she had organised – including a tea party for 70 including Solihull’s then Mayor Joe Tildesley and Lady Mayoress Joan Tildesley – towards the £1,600 cost of Janet’s schooling.  

“Joe Tildesley has kindly given me £100 towards the final £600 I need to enable Janet to remain at school until she is 18. I aim to raise the balance by selling Krispy Kreme doughnuts to pupils at Solihull School,” she said.

Leticia also successfully completed the challenge of climbing to the 4,985-metre summit of Point Lenana on Mount Kenya in the expedition, beating off altitude sickness to be able to view the spectacular countryside from above the cloud line.

“It took us four days to climb to the top and on the last of those days we were literally scrambling on our hands and knees – but it was worth it.

“After our two-day descent we went on safari for two days and even visited a reserve where we saw five of the last seven black rhinos left in Kenya.”

Leticia added: “The expedition brought a real roller coaster of emotions – from the exhilaration and happiness of the mountaineering and charity work to feeling distraught in knowing how life is so precious and can end in an instant. Overall I found the trip a life-affirming experience and my best ever.

“I would like to thank all those who donated money towards my participation in the expedition, which would not have been possible without their generosity.”  

Lt Col Richard Ayres, the officer in charge of Exercise Kenya Adventurer, commented: “Leticia had an outstanding expedition and proved to be an all-rounder of the first order. Her first aid skills proved exemplary in a major incident and I would not hesitate in going on an expedition with Leticia again – she is a credit to her family, the CCF and Solihull School.”

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