00:00 Saturday 17 November 2007  Written by Leo McMahon

Ballinspittle area first responder defibrillator service is launched

JUST for a change, there was a good news story on health last Saturday night as 36 civic minded volunteers were honoured at a community centre at a ceremony to mark the "going live" of the Ballinspittle Community First Response CPR/Defibrillator unit following rigorous training under the auspices of the Health Service Executive (HSE) and Ambulance Service.

It means that anyone in the locality who dials 999 will not only get through to the ambulance service but in turn, one of the trained local voluntary community first responders who is on call that day to provide, if appropriate, what could be life saving cardiac pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and use of a defibrillator before the ambulance arrives in a mainly rural locality up to 40 minutes away from the main ambulance base at Cork University Hospital.

The function began with a demonstration of CPR and use of a defibrillator by Anne Marie Hurley and Eric Johnson on 'actors' (and fellow first responders) Gerard McCarthy and Nuala O'Reilly. This was followed by a most informative DVD produced by the HSE Eastern Region in Greystones, Co. Wicklow showing the training involved for CPR and the use of a defibrillator which initially analyses the heart rhythm and decides if the patient with cardiac arrest can be treated using such a device. Once a community first responder is phoned by the ambulance service, that person immediately contacts a back up colleague who is also on the call rosta for that day.

can save

Around 14,000 people a year in Ireland have heart attacks and it's estimated quick response with CPR and or a defibrillator within 14 minutes can save the lives of up to 40%.

Guests were welcomed by chairman of Ballinspittle Defibrillator Group, Neilie Collins who said that a huge amount of work was put in by the 36 volunteers who between them now provided a 24 hour service in the locality and on call with a mobile phone and defibrillator bag ready to meet the challenge. He paid tribute to Barry O'Donovan of the Red Cross, trainer Bernard Flynn and fellow officers of the HSE, retired training officer Brian Abbott and thanked Micheal Hayes and the Hall Committee, the ICA along with J. J. and Catherine Hegarty of Centra (who also funded a defibrillator) for the catering, Josie Hayes, Donie Hurley, The Southern Star, marathon participants and fellow committee members Ann McCarthy, Kathleen O'Donovan, Eric Johnson and Nuala O'Reilly who was also an instructor. Training was ongoing and he urged more people to avail of CPR/defibrillator courses, adding that a meeting for this purpose was being held shortly in Ballinadee.

Brendan Cavanagh, project co-ordinator of the Sudden Cardiac Death Strategy of the HSE and Irish Heart Foundation, said that of 75 recommendations in the report of the task force, 39 concerned response time. What was happening at Ballinspittle and in other communities (and also with Garda and Fire Brigade personnel) represented the implementation of some of those but the knowledge and skill of the 36 trainees could also be of life saving benefit in their travels and daily work and he congratulated all concerned.

Michael Norris, assistant chief of the HSE (South) Ambulance Service said it was impossible for an ambulance to be in every place, particularly in the geography that is south west Cork, hence the importance of the CPR and defibrillator community first responders. He wished the new volunteers all the best in their potentially life saving work.


Community first responder jackets, certificates and identification badges were then presented to the following, most of whom were present: Geraldine Collins, Neilie Collins, Noelle Collins, Billy Connery, Liam Coughlan, Ken Daly, Aidan Hayes, Brian Hayes, Sara Hayes, Anne-Marie Hurley, Lester Hurley, Alayne Hayes, Eric Johnson, Anne McCarthy, Gerard McCarthy, Padraig McCarthy, Sheila McCarthy, Daniel Murphy, Theresa Murphy, Mike Murray, Diane Nyhan, Kathleen O'Donovan, Laurence O'Donovan, Sean O'Donovan, Johnny O'Mahony, Pauline O'Regan, Nuala O'Rielly, Noreen Quinn, Jamie Hayes, Cora Murphy, Carmel O'Reilly, John Lordan, Olivia Murphy, Angela Roche, Noelle O'Regan and Anto Hegarty.

Local county councillor Alan Coleman voiced full support for the new service and said great credit was due to the committee and volunteers for successfully meeting a major challenge. "At the end of a week in which the health service made headlines for all the wrong reasons, it's great to see people coming together to help each other and I hope other communities will take up the challenge as well because this is what health care is all about at local level." He assured all present however, that the campaign for a cardiac ambulance base at Kinsale, perhaps on a pilot basis in the summer, would continue.

"What better service can you give your neighbour ?" said Gerry O'Dwyer HSE Hospitals Network Manager, paying tribute to all concerned. At a time when people had many distractions and getting volunteers was proving more and more difficult, this was not the case in Courceys and he was delighted to come along and say:"thank you because you care". He also paid tribute to the HSE officers, the Red Cross, Irish Coastguard and other life saving emergency services and publicly acknowledged the great work of retired training officer Brian Abbott.

Bernard Flynn HSE training co-ordinator, said voluntary committees such as Ballinspittle and another one he visited that day in Ballinhassig were the salt of the earth and he really enjoyed working with them. "There will be people who will be alive and well in the coming years thanks to one of you carrying the mobile phone and bag".

Retired training officer Brian Abbott stressed that even if one didn't wish to operate or be on the rota for carrying a defibrillator, he urged as many people as possible to attend CPR classes.

Medal presentations were also made at the function to 24 people who ran, relayed or walked the 2007 Cork City Marathon to raise funds for the defibrillator project.

in cobh

In attendance was Jerry Lawton from the Old Head who was referred to in the speech by Brendan Cavanagh. Jerry, who collapsed at the end of a five kilometre race in Cobh on August 17, said he believed his life was saved by the fact that a taxi driver who came to his aid had immediate access to a defibrillator at the tax office in the town. Present also were Jerry Deasy, Sean Hales along with Niall Crowley, Kilbrittain and Helen and Jim Barry, Timoleague where it is hoped CPR/defibrillator services can be activated.

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