SOS Bus saved Norwich man’s life in Prince of Wales Road

A Norwich family have told how volunteers from the city's SOS Bus helped to save the life young man when he fell down a flight of stairs and suffered a major brain trauma.

First aiders and volunteers from the pioneering night-time service were the first helpers to arrive on the scene when the accident happened at a Prince of Wales Road bar.

The volunteers rushed to where John Stanford was unconscious at the bottom of the flight of stairs and took immediate action to ensure that he was protected in case he had suffered a spinal injury.

The 20-year-old, from Eaton, was taken to Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge and had an operation in which part of his skull was removed and spent more than a week in a coma because his injuries were so severe.

But thanks to care he received right from the very start, the former City of Norwich School pupil is now making an astonishing recovery.

His father Colin this week handed over �1,500 to the SOS Bus project, which he and his colleagues at NatWest raised as a way of saying thank you.

Mr Stanford, 50, said: 'The work of the SOS Bus Project is vital and if it weren't for them my son might not be here today. I wanted to do something to thank them for what they did for John and our family, and also to ensure they are able to continue their good work helping others.'

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John was celebrating on New Year's Eve with a group of friends when he fell down a flight of stairs at Essence.

His father said: 'He was just going down some stairs and turned to say Happy New Year to somebody crossing the stairs and because of the angle he fell backwards down the stairs.'

Door staff at the venue alerted the nearby SOS Bus team, and St John's Ambulance first aider Julie Reeve and SOS Bus volunteer Derek Smith sprinted down to the road to give immediate assistance, followed closely by support vehicle driver Paul Corder.

Miss Reeve, 36, who lives in Norwich and works for Norfolk County Council, said: 'We got to the top of the stairs and could see John lying at the bottom, unconscious but breathing.

'He was on his back and his body was bent around a corner at the bottom and his legs were half up the stairs.

'I laid on the floor behind him to support his head because I was concerned he may have a spinal injury as well as serious head injuries.'

A paremedic in a rapid response vehicle and ambulance crew were also called out, but Miss Reeve had to stay on the floor holding the injured man's head still for up to an hour while they all worked in the extremely confined space to safely get him onto a spinal board.

Miss Reeve said: 'We saw in the New Year with John, as we got there just as 12 o'clock struck.'

For the Stanfords it was a nightmare start to 2011, as the family, including mum Jeanette and brother James, 17, kept a vigil by John's bedside at Addenbrooke's.

But after just over a week in a coma, John woke up and made surprised everyone by being well enough to leave hospital and return to the family home in Norton Drive within three weeks.

The marketing worker for Gasway, at Sweetbriar Industrial Estate, still does not have part of his skull, where it was removed to reduce the pressure caused by any swelling, and he will have to have a plate put in later this year.

Mr Stanford said: 'I wouldn't wish what we have been through on anybody. It was dreadful. It wasn't looking very good at all at various points early on and when he was in a critical condition.

'Thankfully he is doing really well now. He very clearly needed some instant, quality assistance and the SOS Bus team was yards from there he was. It could have been so different had people like that not been instantly to hand.'

SOS Bus volunteer Paul Corder said: 'It's a rarity that you get to hear about what happened to people after you helped them so it's fantastic to hear that John is recovering well.'

The �1,500 was raised from a charity golf day organised by Richard Innes of the Norwich NatWest commercial team, for which Mr Stanford is business development manager, and it was supported by more than 100 local businessmen and women.

The SOS Bus project, which was established following the tragic deaths of three young people in Norwich, is a collaboration between the lead agency for the project, the Open Youth Trust, and other groups such as the SOS Bus volunteers, Norfolk County Council Children's Services, the East of England Ambulance Service, St John's Ambulance, the police, local churches and concerned bar and nightclub owners.

A group of nine of John's friends, who all went to the City of Norwich School sixth form, have also teamed up to organise a five-day charity bike ride from Norwich to Amsterdam and back (255 mile round trip) in July this year.

John's friend Greg Lochhead, 21, from Cringleford, said: 'We decided we wanted to show our appreciation and do whatever we could to raise as much money as possible for the SOS Bus.'

Sarah Mintey, principal of the Open Youth Trust, said : 'We are thrilled to receive such a generous donation, inspired by the work of the SOS Bus. The team of volunteers work tirelessly, often at very unsociable hours and in all weathers, to ensure the safety of the young people of Norwich on Friday and Saturday nights, To have such a public vote of thanks is extremely gratifying.'

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The SOS Bus Project is always on the lookout for volunteers and offers comprehensive training to anyone over the age of 18 who might be able to spare some time to help, whether as a potential driver, or shift leader. For further information, please contact Jenny Smith on 01603 763111 or email