Tuesday 25th June 2013 – 8.55am – Chris Kowalik.
Rob Nichols from Evesham recently reached a milestone. After five years as a Community First Responder, he had attended his one thousandth incident.
“I keep a log of my calls. I didn’t know I had reached a thousand until I looked at that. It was a bit of a shock and feels a bit funny. That’s one milestone out of the way, I’m not sure what the next milestone will be.”
To become a Community First Responder, Rob was trained by the ambulance service. Following his qualification as a CFR, Rob (a member of Vale of Evesham Community First Responders) can be called by the ambulance service’s control room to a medical emergency near him while an emergency ambulance service vehicle is en-route. He puts himself ‘on call’ for the service for approx. 20 hours a week around his full-time work as a web developer and other volunteering work at British Red Cross and St. Richard’s Hospice.
The 49 year old CFR’s career began five years ago. He explained: “It was the floods of 2007. I had just finished my training, I hadn’t gone ‘live’ when the floods happened. At the time I was working in Bromyard but only got as far as the floods in Worcester.
“I went to Worcester ambulance station offering to help. Initially, I found myself filling sandbags in Pershore, then ferrying equipment back and forth. I met my CFR trainer who, at the end of that day, gave me a spare response kit and suggested ‘why not go on call?’
“We went back to Evesham, went live and had our first call. I haven’t looked back since.”
Rob has dealt with a wide variety of cases including cardiac arrests (involving the delivery of CPR), strokes, and treating unwell children.
He said “CFRs are often the first members of the Ambulance Service to arrive on scene. We need to cope with being thrown into a situation and must be able to deal with it until the ambulance crew arrive. They then take over the treatment before passing the patient onto the hospital.
“Often the technical part of the role can appear the most challenging, whereas often the most important thing we do is take the panic out of the situation. CFRs and the ambulance crews we work with, help people through some of the most traumatic experiences of their lives. We work as part of the team that achieves this day in and day out. We have good relationships with the ambulance crews, and I am grateful to them for making me feel welcome within the team.”
Rob has also had to deal with cases that are not just traumatic for the patient and their loved ones but for him too, including deaths: “You are going to see some of the worst aspects, but it opens your eyes to things you may have avoided in the past – things you will have to deal with yourself at some point in your life.
“But I also see love within families. It is hugely rewarding to see the best of people; how much they care for their friends and relatives. And it is hugely rewarding to work with paramedics – lovely people who are now my friends. I owe a huge debt to the crews who have helped me through some of the most stressful cases. I really felt supported by them.”
In November 2011, Rob was presented with a “Distinguished Service Award” by the Chief Executive of West Midlands Ambulance Service in recognition of his attending 800 incidents. Rob said he couldn’t have done it without all the help and support he had received, also from St. Richard’s Hospice, British Red Cross, his fellow volunteers at Vale of Evesham Community First Responders and his “long-suffering” wife of whom he said: “I think she is proud of me and glad that I do something I find so rewarding.
“It is one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done. I do it because it makes me feel good and is great for my self-esteem. I find the rewards from volunteering are greater than those I have got from paid work.”
For more information about the work of Community First Responders or to become one yourself:
visit www.wmas.nhs.uk and find the ‘CFR’ page under ‘About us’
call Noel Orbell, Community Response Manager on 07980 094 808
or call the CFR admin office on 01384 215 855 or email CFRAdmin@wmas.nhs.uk