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FEATURE: Life-saving defibrillator training courses
WHEN someone collapses in the street or at home, who is the first person on the scene? It's not necessarily emergency services; it's a member of the public.
That is the reason firefighters across Somerset are teaching life-saving skills to people in the hope that they could save lives if they are called into action one day.
County Gazette reporter DANIEL MILLIGAN went along to one of their courses to give it a go.
TWO people go into cardiac arrest in two almost identical scenarios. One survives, but one dies.
One family recognised their mother was having a heart attack, and acted quickly to start CPR and buy her precious time before paramedics arrived.
The other family didn’t know what to do. They put their father in the recovery position, but by the time the ambulance came it was too late.
Nobody chooses to have a heart attack and you don’t know when a family member or person in the street next to you may collapse with a cardiac arrest, so surely it makes sense to be prepared.
That’s the message firefighters and British Heart Foundation trainers are hoping to get across to youngsters and adults across the county.
Without CPR, a person’s chance of surviving a cardiac arrest decreases by 10% every minute, and the current survival rate in Somerset is 6-8%, but with quality CPR that increases to 74%.
CPR, the motion of pressing down on a person’s chest, should be at around 100 beats a minute – imagine the beat of the Bee Gees’ Stayin’ Alive in the Vinnie Jones TV advert.
The two-hour courses are free, funded by donations to the BHF, and you leave with the confidence that if panic struck around you on the sports field, in the pub, while shopping or at work, you could take control of the situation and save lives.
Richard Flavin, a firefighter of seven years, has been running the monthly courses for 3½ years, and says they hope to equip enough people across the region so that if disaster strikes there would always be someone nearby to act as a first responder.
Courses are held in a relaxed atmosphere for around ten people at a time, so you can have fun as well as understanding the serious nature of what your actions could achieve.
The course specialises in using a defibrillator, which sends an electric shock through someone suffering a cardiac arrest to kickstart the heart’s regular beat.
Defibrillators are becoming more common around communities after the high-profile case of Bolton Wanderers footballer Fabrice Muamba, who collapsed during a match last year, but survived thanks to the quick work of medics who used the machine to keep him alive.
Lawrence Rayment, South-West training supervisor for the BHF, said: “These courses are to build up community resilience, and train people not to be afraid of using first aid and defibrillators in an emergency.
“Some people are afraid to use defibrillators because they might do more damage or get electrocuted, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.”
The pair hope to run courses in schools across the county to show children what to do if their friends or parents become ill at home or on holiday.
Andy Gascoigne, of Taunton, who was on the course, said he was surprised how straightforward using a defibrillator was.
He said: “A defibrillator looks like something that could only be used by a professional, but actually anybody can use it, and make a difference between life and death.
“When you practise using it, even though it’s not real, it does get your heart beating quite fast because you’re imagining using it in a real-life situation.”
Another course member, dental hygienist Hayley Skuse, said the course was much more informative than previous first aid courses because you are allowed to practise and give it a go.
She said: “I feel much more confident now than before – we have defibrillators at work, but I thought they were only for doctors to use, and now I know how easy they are I’d use one straightaway if I saw someone having a heart attack.”
If you would like to go on one of the courses or arrange for a school visit, go to www.heartclass.co.uk to book.
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