6 ISSUES FOR £6 Subscribe to EDP Norfolk today click here

Community First Responder volunteers in Norfolk

PUBLISHED: 13:13 06 March 2017 | UPDATED: 13:13 06 March 2017

Community First Responders training evening at Lingwood Church who work together with the emergency services in the local area. Christine Wheeler, front (photo: Steve Adams)

Community First Responders training evening at Lingwood Church who work together with the emergency services in the local area. Christine Wheeler, front (photo: Steve Adams)

STEVE ADAMS 2017

From Sheringham to Thetford and Downham Market to Hembsy, the Community First Responder volunteers are poised to help

A 999 call comes in. A man has collapsed. An ambulance is despatched – but in the vital, panicked minutes before professional help arrives, a neighbour turns up too. She has a defibrillator, oxygen, dressings and pulse monitoring machine, and knows how to use it all.

Across Norfolk, lives are regularly saved by volunteers, working as Community First Responders.

Trained and co-ordinated by the ambulance service, these people are often nearest to a medical emergency and first on the scene. “I came across it because my father was ill and community responders came out to him,” says Christine Wheeler, who now co-ordinates two groups of volunteers, in Lingwood and Strumpshaw, and in Brundall and Blofield, east of Norwich.

There are 74 groups in Norfolk, with a total of around 250 volunteers, and the network extends across the county, region and country.

There are no blue lights or sirens; instead the volunteers bring intensive training and a comprehensive medical kit.

“The reason that responders was set up in the first place was to do with cardiac arrests because the time frame really matters,” says Christine. “We carry defibrillators and are trained to deal with cardiac arrest but that is quite rare. We also deal with seizures, anaphylactic shock, strokes, diabetic problems…”

She worked as an occupational therapist before retiring, and has been involved in medicine and caring almost all her life, starting out as a Red Cross cadet. But volunteers do not need prior medical experience – just a caring nature and willingness to learn. In her responder groups there are also young parents and the early retired, students, teachers, business people, carers and office workers.

They are on call for an average of 18 hours a week each, but Christine says: “It can be hours on call and nothing; people aren’t dropping like flies in these villages! You can go whole mornings and get nothing and then three or four together.”

There is always an ambulance on the way too, but the responders are often first on the scene.

“People are so pleased to see us,” says Christine. “We have definitely saved lives. We have been to people who have been seriously ill; we have been to cardiac arrests where that person has survived, and in between that you do get a situation where somebody is given cpr (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) and they do survive; maybe they only survive a few days but it allows time for families to say goodbye. Once in a while we get a card or an email saying thank you and that’s fantastic.”

Community First Responders not only deal with life-threatening emergencies such as suspected heart attacks, choking, epilepsy, and collapses, they also help educate people.

Their own training includes an initial three-day course, plus a shift on an ambulance shadowing a crew, and an annual reassessment.

“We go and train people, go into schools, youth groups, teach cpr, teach young children what to do in an emergency, how to call for help,” says Christine. “We also fundraise for our own kit. The local community has been fantastic with that.”

The first Norfolk group was launched in Watton in 2004, with the next in Holt. The East of England Ambulance Service is always keen to hear from potential volunteers - with North Norfolk towns including Holt, Mundesley, Cromer and North Walsham particularly in need of more Community First Responders. Anyone aged 18-70 with access to a car, and with a caring and sympathetic approach, can find out more by visiting www.eastamb.nhs.uk or emailing norfolkresponder@eastamb.nhs.uk

Everyone can help

Community First Responders often have vital local knowledge. Volunteer Susan Rowe of the Brundall and Blofield group says one way everyone can help is to ensure house names or numbers are easy to see from the road, ideally on reflective boards. “And if you are expecting an ambulance, especially when it is dark, please have lights on and ideally someone watching out, ready to flag the ambulance down. Sometimes minutes can be vital,” she says.

0 comments

Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files
Comments

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other EDP Norfolk Magazine visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by EDP Norfolk Magazine staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique EDP Norfolk Magazine account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

More from People

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Many of us are inspired to take up a career by a famous person, a mentor or family member. Daz Gook, of the Sea Life Centre in Great Yarmouth, was inspired by a shark

Read more
August 2017
Monday, August 14, 2017

As a new exhibition focuses on the life and legacy of Nelson, we discover the places with a particular connection to Norfolk’s hero

Read more
August 2017
Thursday, August 3, 2017

Tickets are on sale now for The Spice Girls’ film at Norwich’s Odeon cinema, but tickets are selling fast

Read more
Tuesday, August 1, 2017

From having both feet on the ground to seeing the world from 13,500ft – a group of Norfolk youngsters are set to embark on the biggest challenge of their lives this month

Read more
July 2017
Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Norfolk in summer is the time to hear the sound of leather on willow – and one local bat-maker is making a bit of noise himself

Read more
July 2017
Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The Nurture Project aims to improve health and well-being through gardening – and it is not hard to see how this beautiful, magical place could transform lives

Read more
July 2017
Tuesday, July 18, 2017

From party girl to pottery, radio and television presenter Sara Cox has come along way since she burst onto our screens 20 years ago

Read more
July 2017

It is hard to ignore the entertaining eccentricities of Wiveton Hall owner Desmond MacCarthy, but his passionate understanding of the stunning landscape he calls home will truly charm and captivate you

Read more
July 2017
Friday, July 7, 2017

The family of Maisie Colquhoun from Wymondham who lost the battle with Ewings Sarcoma are taking on a heroic climb and swim for the Teenage Cancer Trust

Read more
Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Fifty years on from the 1967 ‘Summer of Love’ when an estimated 100,000 people converged on San Francisco in search of nirvana, Victoria Manthorpe looks back at how an Anglo-American youth counter-culture arrived in Norwich and thrived in Norfolk for nearly a decade

Read more
June 2017
 
Great British Holidays advert link

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Latest Competitions & Offers

Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory
EDP Norfolk Application Link

Like us on Facebook

Local Business Directory

Norfolk's trusted business finder

Search For a Car In Your Area

Property Search