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Alton Towers: Theme park's life-savers are first to respond in an emergency

By Ashbourne News Telegraph  |  Posted: June 11, 2014

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A man who suffered a cardiac arrest at Alton Towers last week is now recovering thanks to the quick actions of passers-by and the theme park's own First Responder group. Carolyn Bointon talked to the group to find out more about the work they do.

WEST Midlands Ambulance Service was called by staff at Alton Towers at around 4.30pm on Wednesday after a man suffered a cardiac arrest within the theme park grounds.

A spokesman said: "The 41-year-old man was walking through the theme park with his family when he suddenly collapsed and went into cardiac arrest.

"A passing off-duty GP and ambulance technician quickly rushed to his aid, followed by a community first responder from Alton Towers who bought an automated external defibrillator from the medical centre.

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"The team quickly commenced cardio pulmonary resuscitation, administering about eight cycles of chest compressions on the man.

"They used the defibrillator to deliver two shocks to the man's heart and successfully managed to restart his heart.

"When the first ambulance staff arrived, the man was breathing for himself and, when the air ambulance landed, he was sitting up and talking.

"The man was assessed by ambulance staff and given further treatment before he was airlifted to University Hospital North Staffordshire, where he was said to be in a stable condition upon arrival.

"This was an excellent example of how important it is to start cardio pulmonary resuscitation quickly in cardiac arrest cases.

"If it hadn't been for the bystanders and community first responders, ambulance staff commented that it was unlikely the man would have survived."

Community first responders (CFRs) are the volunteer forces of ambulance trusts up and down the country.

The Alton Towers community first responders have been providing support and assistance to West Midlands Ambulance Service (WMAS) for more than 10 years.

The responders are often the first on scene when an emergency 999 call is put through to WMAS and carry essential life-support equipment, including oxygen, nebulisers, pain relief and defibrillators.

The group has 10 staff trained in essential life support skills and, between them, they offer 24/7 cover to the theme park resort and the surrounding area, including Alton, Farley, Oakamoor and Cotton.

Responders can be called to incident anywhere within 10 minutes' drive so they have even been as far as Denstone and Rocester.

Responders will generally be asked to attend emergencies such as suspected heart attacks, cardiac arrest, diabetes, fits, strokes, trauma and car crashes.

Many of the team also volunteer for other CFR groups in the area, including Mayfield and Fulford.

Sue Evans, medical team leader for the Alton Towers group, said: "One of the main reasons people get involved with CFR groups is simply to help their local community.

"Our team members talk about the challenges they face and the buzz they get out of creating calm out of chaos.

"They all have tremendous skills and the on-going training they receive from WMAS makes dealing with even traumatic situations less daunting – and the letters of thanks they get from those they help make it all worthwhile."

The group is committed to training members of the public in basic life support too.

Sue said: "The group members love getting out and about within the community to share their knowledge and skills and have recently been to Mayfield to show the children the ambulance vehicle and talk to them about what they could do if someone they know is taken ill.

"If nothing else, showing a child how to call for help is critical.

"There are around 60,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests in the UK every year.

"When someone goes into cardiac arrest every minute without CPR and defibrillation reduces their chances of survival by 10 per cent.

"The group offers free Heartstart courses, which teach basic life support skills including CPR to anyone over the age of 12, which are available for private groups, schools and businesses."

Community first responder groups are always interested in taking on new recruits and Sue said all of the team would recommend it. She said: "The skills responders learn are not just life-saving for the patients – they are potentially life-changing for the participants too, opening up new areas for further training and even career changes.

"We know we can rely on them to deliver exceptional care to the highest possible standard and we are proud to know that they are supporting our local community with such dedication."

Further information on becoming a community first responder is available online at the ambulance service website at www.wmas.nhs.uk/Pages/CFRs.aspx.

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