Hedon’s Community First Responders (CFR) are the local volunteers trained to save lives in our ancient borough. “The Hedon scheme is one of the oldest responder schemes in Yorkshire,” says Trish Kilner, a Community Defibrillation Trainer with Yorkshire Ambulance Service “It means the Hedon Responders have a great record of attending real medical emergencies under their belt.”
Trish speaks enthusiastically about the seven-strong Hedon CFR team, but cajoles them light-heartedly for being far too modest about their achievements; “They do attend incidents and they do save lives!” she beams proudly. The local volunteers – who come from various walks of life including a despatch worker, a pyro-technician, a lifeguard, care worker and model-maker – were in the town centre on Saturday telling people about the role of the CFR.
When an incident occurs in Hedon involving a suspected heart attack or a condition which causes somebody to lose consciousness, then after a 999 emergency ambulance is called for and despatched, Yorkshire Ambulance Service will also contact the local CFR member on duty. The fact that the responder lives locally means that it is quite likely she or he will be first on the scene; their actions from then until an ambulance arrives could make a difference between life or death for the patient.
The first treatment given to a patient immediately after an incident can be vital in saving a life or preventing the onset of a disability or more serious condition. In extreme cases survival rates can increase the sooner that the patient is seen and treatment administered.
More often the responder arrives at a scene to find the patient, or their family, friends, neighbours or passers-by in a state of high distress. The arrival of the responder in their distinctive uniform can serve to re-assure all those involved, while getting the patient ready for when the ambulance comes. Sometimes this might be acting to make the patient more comfortable in the knowledge that their home will be locked up or relatives informed about their predicament.
Garry Cousins, a Hedon volunteer for ten years recounted the tale of arriving at an incident to find the poorly lady didn’t speak English and spent several minutes and phone calls ensuring that somebody was available to translate between her and the ambulance crew when they arrived. “In another incident,” adds Trish, “the patient wouldn’t get in the ambulance until she was re-assured her cat was going to be looked after. So we can add cat-sitter to the list of things a responder does! But actually this is just typical of some of the things done by the responders. It’s not all life-saving, it’s the stuff behind the scenes ensuring the patient is comfortable before and after the ambulance arrives that is important too.”
Each CFR volunteer carries a kit bag containing oxygen and an automated external defibrillator and is trained in basic life-support, CPR (Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation) and oxygen therapy. The regular training undertaken by a CFR and experience attending emergencies gives them the confidence to tackle incidents even when not on duty. Garry recounts: “I was walking by Johnsons Corner and saw someone having a fit on a bus to the alarm of the other passengers and it was a good feeling to know that I could get in there and help straight away.”
“The satisfaction of being able to care for someone in crisis is rewarding” said Tim Houlton the volunteer Hedon CFR Coordinator and the longest-serving member of the team who first started as a responder in 2004. Tim received the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012 in recognition for his work. “For me being a responder is my way of giving something back and helping the community where I live.” It’s a theme taken up by Garry: “It’s good to know that there are people around who can help in an emergency in the local community. Imagine if its your own family, relatives or friends in difficulty.”
“It’s about making a difference,” adds Roger Allison who has been volunteering as a Hedon CFR for 10 years. He first found out about the CFR after reading an article in the Holderness Gazette, so says he values the little bit of publicity the scheme can obtain.
The CFR team certainly are unsung heroes in the town. There’s always one of the seven members on duty at any one time, ready to pick up their kitbag and jump into the car and respond to an emergency in the town. And whilst Yorkshire Ambulance Service never calls on its CFR volunteers to trauma incidents like road crashes, rather only those cases like a cardiac arrest, choking or breathing difficulties, it has to be remembered that not all those incidents have positive outcomes and the death of a patient can be a sad event to cope with. But the Hedon CFR team members do remain a hardy and positive bunch of volunteers albeit, as Trish Kilner observed and I discovered on Saturday, they are a very modest lot reluctant to sing their own praises.
The event in Hedon on Saturday morning successfully plugged the local scheme with three people expressing an interest and wanting to get more information about becoming a volunteer. It was also nice to note the invite by the Hedon Mayor Councillor John Dennis for the Hedon Community First Responders to join other uniformed services in taking part in the Town’s Civic parades.
Cllr. Dennis said: “As the Mayor, and Ward Member for South West Holderness, I’m very pleased to support the endeavours of our First Responders. I hope they attract many new members to the group. Residents should recognise and appreciate the excellent service they provide in our area, and this is a great opportunity for local people to become involved in a very worthwhile enterprise.”
Hedon Town Council showed its support on Saturday through obtaining permission for the display ambulance to park up in the Market Place and several councillors attended to show their support for the scheme.
Could you be a Community First Responder? The scheme is looking for new recruits to become volunteers with the local teams providing immediate medical care to patients within the community in the vital minutes before an ambulance arrives. Working with Yorkshire Ambulance Service, full training is given to successful applicants who need to be over 18, physically fit and hold a full driving licence and have easy access to a car.
For more information on Community First Responding or to apply to join the team in your area, contact the Yorkshire Ambulance Service Community Resilience Team office on 0845 120 3155, email: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the special CFR website.