Your partner, child or neighbour has just suffered a stroke or a heart attack, minutes matter and you call 999 and ask for an ambulance. Hopefully this won’t happen to you but if it does you’ll likely count the seconds until someone arrives to fix the problem.
Medical emergency response in the King's Blog area is run by South Central Ambulance Service who employ a large number of trained responders: doctors, paramedics, nurses, emergency care assistants, ambulance technicians and others. They also make use of trained volunteers, either members of the public or from other emergency services.
In the spring I was vetted and trained by SCAS as a Community First Responder. I’ve been called out many times since then and was re-qualified at the end of September. CFRs are regularly trained and retrained to deal with a variety of medical emergencies, life & death situations in homes, offices, workplaces (not road accidents). In my case, I’ve dealt with stroke, breathing difficulties, a fall from a roof, drug poisoning, heart attack and several other life threatening incidents.
I’m a volunteer, I’m not paid by SCAS and my responding duties fit with my normal work and leisure patterns. I have a SCAS supplied first aid kit including oxygen and a defibrillator. My commitment is to spend at least 20 hours per month on call. What that means is that, whenever it suits me, I log on to the SCAS response network as being available and I then get on with my normal routine, mostly working at home. If my response phone rings I’ll be asked to attend an incident somewhere within about 10 minutes’ drive from my house. It’s up to me whether or not I attend but, if I do, I drive safely and legally – no blue lights or traffic exemptions – to the incident and do whatever I can.
“Whatever I can” - I’m not always the first to arrive, sometimes an ambulance crew gets there faster in which case I’ll assist them. If I’m the first responder, “whatever I can” includes walking through their door: the relief on the faces of the patient and relatives is often tangible. I assess the patient’s needs and treat in accordance with my training. I’m not a paramedic or ECA but I can do much more than I thought I could do when I started. On my first live call after qualifying I was first on scene for an elderly gentleman suffering breathing difficulties. My training kicked in as soon as I arrived but it felt to me as though I was operating in slow motion, I was having to put a lot of effort into assuring myself that I knew what to do. Fortunately a very nice lady paramedic arrived shortly after me who took charge and calmly told me what to do. When I returned home I sat and thought through the entire call and satisfied myself that the training worked, the kit worked, the backup from SCAS worked and all would be well. In my most recent call I was first on scene at a roof fall. I checked the patient for alertness, bleeding and other vital signs, arranged for the scene to be cleared ready for the ambulance, made the patient comfortable and secure then assisted the ambulance crew with preparing the patient for the journey to hospital.
I am currently the only CFR active in the area. I have attended calls in Kingsley, Bordon, Liphook, Alton, Binsted and Wrecclesham. More CFRs are always needed. A friend, on being told that I was an ambulance volunteer, asked “is that because there aren’t enough ambulances?” How many ambulances would be “enough”? Can there ever be enough?
What do I get out of it? My training & experience so far has provided me with confidence that, however bad things look, there’s always a positive way to deal with the situation. I can and do make a real difference to people when life has just gone horribly wrong for them and, frankly, I get a buzz out of that. Apart from that first live call, responding hasn’t been a stressful experience for me. In a way it’s actually quite relaxing. From the moment the phone goes until I’m released at scene by the senior clinician present I let my training take the strain. There is no pressure on me, as it was put to me during initial training, “it’s not about saving lives, it’s about doing the best you can”. It’s not my fault that someone fell from a roof or suffered a stroke, I’m just trying to help the situation, I’m doing the best I can.
Does this sound like something you might be able to do? Yes you, are you reasonably fit, have access to a car, able to be on call for 20 hours a month? Have a look at www.scas.nhs.uk/cfr, call 0800 587 0207 or speak to me.
Funding! The CFR schemes are funded entirely by public donations. It costs around £3,000 to setup each CFR and several hundred pounds each year to keep that individual trained, qualified and supplied with consumables. Perhaps you’d be willing to contribute? If so, Have a look at www.scas.nhs.uk/cfr, call 0800 587 0207 or speak to me.
999 emergency, are you up for it?