Volunteers work saves lives

Posted at 16/02/10 - 06:00 AM

Article courtesy of Diss Express www.dissexpress.co.uk


Being the first on scene at a life threatening emergency is all in a day's work for the volunteers at the Diss First Responders.

These are the people who dedicate their lives, time and money to treat patients in those first vital minutes before the ambulance crew arrive on scene.


Being on call day and night, 365 days a year, is just part of the job for co-ordinator Rachel Hillier


"You have to be committed. You never know from day to day what could happen and you've always got to be prepared," she said.


The charity began its work on April 29, 2008, and the Diss group works on behalf of the East of England Ambulance Service in a ten-mile radius of the town.


Its aim is to reach a patient within eight minutes of a call being logged, if it is not realistic for an ambulance to do so.


Responder Ian Seymour-Blackburn said: "We work with the ambulance service. "We're a team. They call us colleagues and appreciate the work we do. "We've gained their trust and assist each other as much as we can."


The Diss team has nine fully qualified responders with six currently active.


The team is made up of a range of ages and professions, with the youngest, Tom Catalano, just 19.


The work they do is completely unpaid.


Responders use their own cars for transport, pay for their own petrol and uniforms and even fund-raise for the majority of their lifesaving equipment.


"We were provided with minimal kit and then had to raise about £3,000 for the rest of it. Luckily the generosity within the community allowed us to do it," said Mr Seymour-Blackburn.


Kits consist of equipment such as a defibrillator, costing £1,600, and a Pulse Oxymeter costing £400, along with the bag alone costing £130.


The team has two kits which must stay with their two emergency phones at all times, ensuring response is immediate.


Traffic can sometimes be an issue for responders trying to reach a patient.


They are not permitted to carry sirens or lights and have to keep to speed limits at all times. Without a recognised response vehicle they often go unnoticed by other drivers who do not see the magnetic plates attached to their car.


"Long term we're looking to have our own response vehicle. We're not looking for anything new or flashy, just something that's reliable and big enough for our kit." said Mrs Hillier.


The money for such a vehicle would have to be raised, and with the current climate, people are not so generous to help.


Mrs Hillier said: "I have written letter after letter to businesses and organisations asking for sponsorship or fundraising. It all takes time and money and I never hear much back."


Mrs Hillier joined the First Responders after seeing a team in action.


"I was sat in a pub in Suffolk and saw the first response team in action," she said. "I tried to get a group together and was then told about the group in Diss."


But there is upset along the way


Mr Seymour-Blackburn said sometimes it is not always good news and your work is not enough.


"It's really sad and upsetting if you can't help," he said. "You know you've done all you can but sometimes it's just unfortunate," he said.


The responders are in desperate need of volunteers and those willing to help the group fundraise.


"We're not just looking for responders.


"Anyone who enjoys or is good at fundraising would be of great use," said Mr Seymour-Blackburn.


Contact the community first responders, 01284 731802, or visit the website.

WebWatch: www.respondersuk.org/diss


Diss First Responders is the nominated charity for this year's Diss Carnival bucket collection.


FIRST ON SCENE: Ian Seymour-Blackburn and Rachel Hillier are part of the Diss First Responders team.


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