It's essential that as many people as possible are trained first responders, as this small but vital act will save lives, writes Brian Moore
THERE is currently no way of knowing how many life-saving defibrillators there are in West Cork, where they are located or how many people in the community are trained to use them.
The Health Service Executive (HSE) has confirmed that there is no centralised database recording the numbers or locations of community defibrillators available at this time.
âThere are currently 71 defibrillators registered for the whole county of Cork, which are registered geographically with the National Emergency Operational Centre (NEOC). There are 24 Community First Responder groups in county Cork with four in the West Cork area,' a spokesperson for the HSE said.Â
âCommunity groups, organisations or individuals can make their defibrillator available for public use. They can geographically register their device with the NEOC for use in the case of an emergency. There is a protocol for geographically registering the device with the NEOC and National Ambulance Service. Â
âThis is a voluntary process. This means that, if there is a cardiac emergency call received in the area, then the NEOC can advise the caller of where the nearest available defibrillator is â NAS are not responsible for the defibrillators' maintenance, upkeep etc.'
However, while the number of people dying each year from heart disease continues to rise, more and more individuals, sports clubs and community groups are taking matters into their own hands in an effort to prevent, care for and save those who suffer a serious cardiac arrest.
âHeart disease is the biggest killer in Ireland and the figures are on the increase,' Sarah Caine of the Irish Heart Foundation (IHF) said. âUnfortunately, this is set to rise even more by over 40% by 2020. And we know that over 5,000 people will die from a sudden cardiac arrest each year.'Â
Community defibrillator groups, the GAA clubs and other volunteer organisations across West Cork have moved to provide their local areas, some very remote and a distance from medical services, with not only access to, but training in the use of defibrillators.
However, having contacted the Irish Heart Foundation, the voluntary organisation responsible for training First Responder Groups, it became clear that there are many other groups in West Cork who are not affiliated with the HSE, the NSA or the NEOC.
âIt is normal for a community group or sports club to contact the IHF for advice and training when it comes to providing defibrillators for their organisations or their areas,' Sarah Caine continued. âWe know that there are over 150 First Responder Groups nationwide and only four that are in West Cork. Of course, this doesn't mean that there aren't people trained in CPR and in the use of defibrillators in your area.'
One group, which was the first to be organised in West Cork, is the Red Cross Bantry Defibrillation Group and one of its founders, Peter Marren, explained just how important it is to have people trained in CPR in the community. âThe first five minutes of any cardiac episode are the most vital and if help is at hand the chances of survival goes way up,' Peter said.
There are now 12 defibrillators in Bantry and the surrounding areas. These are strategically located outside premises in Bantry at SuperValu, the Bantry Boys' Club, Dr.Denis Cotter's Surgery, Bantry Blues GAA Pitch, Bay Rovers Pitch, Lisheens, Kealkil; St Colum's GAA Pitch, Coomhola Bridge, the Mealagh Valley Community Hall, St Finbarr's Church, the Bantry Sailing Club, Willie Pa's Restaurant, Colomane, and Cronin's Shop Ballylickey.
âThe first response in a cardiac collapse situation is vital. When someone goes into cardiac arrest, one of the most important factors that determine their greatest chance of survival is time,' Mary O'Regan Barsum of the Bantry Defibrillator Group said. âIf compressions are started and a defibrillator is used early then the chances of surviving a heart attack are greatly increased. Also, the sooner help is given the less time there is for their heart, brain and vital organs to suffer damage from lack of oxygen.'Â
Members of the Bantry Defibrillator Group are trained first responders, which mean that if you call the emergency services reporting a cardiac incident in the Bantry area, a member of the group will respond to the call.
âAll our members are certified community first responders,' Mary continued. âThey volunteer their time to be on call and to provide monthly practice sessions in CPR and in the use of AEDefibrillators for both adults and infants. They are happy and proud to report that members have saved three lives with their prompt action.Â
âIt is essential that as many people as possible in communities across West Cork consider becoming certified first responders. This small act will save lives.'
However, there are many other West Cork groups and organisations with training and defibrillators. EirMed, a medical supplies company, has delivered defibrillators to community groups across West Cork.Â
âThere are a lot of groups in West Cork,' Kieran Egan of EirMed said. We have supplied groups in Schull, Dunmanway, Bandon, Bantry, Skibbereen, Castletownbere, Eyreies, Clonakility and Glengarriff to name just a few. And we have supplied over 330 units to groups in Cork city and county.'
It is estimated that there are over 150 defibrillators in locations from Kinsale to Castletownbere, but without an accurate database, this number cannot be confirmed. For rural isolated communities, a sports club or indeed a company, having people trained in CPR and the use of a defibrillator is vital, according to Sarah Caine.
âWhat we want is for the nearest person to someone who experiences a cardiac issue to be able to give CPR,' Sarah said. âThe sooner CPR is under way the better, the chances of survival go way up. Get training, call the emergency service immediately and give your loved one, team member or work colleague or indeed total stranger a better chance of surviving a cardiac arrest.'
But it is also important that, where the devices are under lock or key, everyone with training knows who the keyholder is and how to access it immediately.
For more information on training or to establish a first responder group in your area contact the Irish Heart Foundation at 021-4505822 or email [email protected]
A healthy heart
PREVENTION is better than cureÂ and with heart disease the number one cause of death in Ireland, the HSE's Healthy Ireland project sets out to educate and prevent the risks of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, heart and lung diseases and mental health difficulties.
Â Â Â âThe majority (65%) of cardiovascular disease deaths are attributable to a number of known and preventable risk factors such as smoking, high blood pressure, overweight and obesity, high cholesterol, alcohol, physical inactivity and poor diet,' said Priscilla Lynch Head of Service Health & Wellbeing Cork Kerry Community Healthcare.Â
Â Â Cork and Kerry Community Healthcare is focused on prevention rather than simply on treatment by supporting good health and wellbeing at all stages of a person's life.
Â ThisÂ can lead to a healthier, more fulfilled life and increased life expectancy with extra years lived in good health.Â
Â Â âBy supporting people to make healthier lifestyle choices, we have the potential to make a significant impact on the level of illness, disability and deaths among our population.'Â
1.Â Give up smoking. Â
2.Â Reduce your alcohol consumption. Â
3.Â Keep your blood pressure under control.Â
4.Â Eat a healthy, balanced diet.Â
5.Â Be more physically active.Â
6.Â Keep to a healthy weight.
For more information seeÂ [email protected] or call 01 635 204.