Blog | Henry's story

Henry Lifesaver

7-year-old Henry Hersey enjoyed learning First Aid at Beavers. He has the Activity Badge sewn onto his jumper as a reminder - and as well as being fun, the skills stuck. Henry’s exceptional calmness and bravery in a medical emergency earned him the prestigious Lieutenant Commander Henry Bruce Young Person’s Award, and saved the life of a stranger.

‘It was after school, on a Tuesday, with my daddy and my little sister Anna,’ Henry explains. They were walking home on a windy afternoon when Henry asked his dad if he could hear a noise. ‘Someone was saying, “Help me, help me”,’ Henry’s dad, Will, says, picking up the story. ‘We found a little gap in the fence to look through, and then we found Sylvie,’ Henry continues. 

They discovered 90-year-old Sylvia Downer in her garden, injured and unable to get up. She’d gone to let out her dog, and a gust of wind had pulled the door out of her hands, toppling her onto the concrete. Her lunch was boiling dry on the stove, and her slippers were still at the back door. She had been calling for help for over three hours.


‘When we went into the house she looked absolutely hurt,’ Henry says. ‘We just knew that we had to help her.’ While they waited for an ambulance, Henry sat with Sylvie, stroking her hand and keeping her calm. ‘I knew how to help because I remembered it from Beavers,’ he explains. ‘If I hadn’t had my badge, I might have done something wrong.’

Sylvie was beginning to look better, until she suffered what they later discovered was a stroke, and fell from her chair, causing a gruesome head wound. Despite the stress of the situation, Henry stayed with Sylvie. ‘I think having us with her made her feel better because she had been there for hours calling for help, and no one came except us. It was only us that saved her,’ he says. 

With the ambulance immanent, Henry was given the job of signalling the paramedics. ‘I had to go out to the front of the house and look. The car was big, yellow and dark green, so I knew that was the one. I did a waving signal and then I opened the gate and let them into the house.’

The paramedics took Sylvie to hospital, where she stayed for a month before being allowed home. The family knocked on her door one afternoon when she was back. ‘She opened the door and said, “It’s you, isn’t it.” She remembered Henry and his sister: it was a lovely moment,’ Will recalls.

‘She told us how proud she was of the children, and how she’d been telling all the doctors and nurses that, out of a horrible situation, her one abiding memory was of the two of them carrying a huge chair for her to sit in. It was taller than Henry!’ ‘Twice the size!’ Henry says, exuberantly.


‘After we left, I took Henry and Anna by the hand and told them that I was incredibly proud,’ Will says earnestly. ‘They handled it so well.’ Will is rightfully proud of how his children reacted, staying calm and doing their best to be kind and helpful in a frightening situation.

‘I went through Scouts myself, and I wanted them to have that same experience. I think Scouting gives you the moral values and tools you’ll need for life. The learning methods stick.’ Will looks over towards his son. ‘If it wasn’t for Scouting, Henry wouldn’t be the fine, upstanding little boy he is – and long may it continue.’ 

This story was originally printed in the December 2016 Issue of Scouting Magazine, which you can download as a PDF or read online.

Back to articles list

Most read