Why I Became A CFR – Ash O’Malley
Ash O’Malley works as a mechanical design engineer and lives in Hereford.
He was trained in First Aid at work but wanted to take it to an advanced level and that is why he became a Community First Responder (CFR); one of a number of people who volunteer their free time to respond to medical emergencies near them while an emergency ambulance vehicle is en-route. He is also currently training to become an instructor for the Herefordshire Heartstart charity.
After seeing an appeal on the internet, Ash applied for a position, underwent the training provided by West Midlands Ambulance Service, accompanied ambulance crews during their shifts and, after successfully qualifying as a CFR he began responding himself. Ash “books-on” with the ambulance service’s control room on weeknights and occasional weekends while he is at home in the centre of Hereford.
“My first job was to an unconscious person at a residential home. It taught me the golden rule – never to assume, because I assumed it would be a resident, but it was in fact a member of staff who was taken ill.”
Ash has been a CFR for two years and recently attended his one-hundredth incident:
“I’ve responded to care homes, a coffee shop, car parks and a football club amongst calls to domestic addresses.
The most notable incident was on a train. It stood out because it was still full of people. I arrived on scene the same time as the paramedic. We were directed by rail staff across the platform and onto the train to find a man critically ill on board. Fortunately there was a doctor travelling in the same carriage who was maintaining his airway. I assisted the paramedic by carrying and fetching equipment, preparing kit and taking down the patient’s observations as he was assessed. The railway staff were very prepared; they halted the trains so we could carry the patient across the lines and into the ambulance. I remember thinking it surreal to be working on board a train – not something they taught us in the classroom!”
The training provided by West Midlands Ambulance Service for Community First Responders is on-going and continuous. Ash explained: “We receive monthly training. Every year we have an update of new procedures and we have to re-qualify every three years. Last year I was very fortunate to be invited to the control room where I listened to emergency calls coming in, and then watched the dispatchers sending vehicles out to the cases.
“A friend of mine who is a paramedic roped me into playing a ‘live’ casualty in an exercise to simulate a large incident earlier in the year. I was an injured front-seat passenger of a car wedged under a 52-seater bus on a cold January evening. It was a good insight into how to deal with patients and the importance of communicating well with them.
For me, being a Community First Responder costs me nothing more than my time and I find it very rewarding. It’s good to be in a position to help people when their worst nightmares are unfolding. It’s not always like that, but it can be sometimes. Everyone is very thankful for your help.”