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'A guy collapsed in the gym beside me and I didn't know what to do'

About 14 people collapse and die suddenly in Ireland every day. Groups of trained volunteers across the country are trying to reduce this figure.

Image: CPR via Shutterstock

ABOUT TWO YEARS ago, Dean McCarthy was in the gym when the man exercising on the bike beside him collapsed.

The Wicklow native was powerless to help.

“I just stood there and didn’t know what to do,” he told TheJournal.ie. “I swore to myself that would never happen again.”

To follow up on his promise, McCarthy attended – and completed – a training regime for volunteer First Responders. He is one of a growing number of people across the country who give up their time to attend to emergency situations every week.

As patients wait for an ambulance and paramedics, the arrival of an individual trained to use a defibrillator and other emergency treatments can be the difference between life and death.

Every day in Ireland, 14 people collapse and die suddenly – without warning, according to McCarthy.

These people are going about their daily lives, at work, at home, shopping, at sports events etc and 70 to 80 per cent of these collapses happen in the presence of family or friends.

“After suffering a cardiac arrest, for every minute that passes, the chances of recovery are reduced by 7 to 10 per cent.

We have a phrase in Ireland “died suddenly” and people seem to accept it.

First Responders are dispatched by the National Ambulance Services after 999/112 calls are received indicating heart attack, stroke, choking and/or cardiac arrest suspects.

As they live locally, they arrive on scene usually within minutes and stay there to assist the ambulance service.

Currently, Ireland’s Out‐of‐Hospital Cardiac Arrest (OOHCA) survival rate is very low at 6.6 per cent. The corresponding figure in the UK is 18.5 per cent and in Seattle is a significant 39.9 per cent.

The volunteers are holding their first annual conference next weekend (Saturday, 1 March) in Tullamore and will hear from international emergency medicine experts, including Dr Bryan McNally of Emory University.

McCarthy says it is a good way to meet each other, figure out how many volunteers are currently working and to recruit new interested parties.

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It could also encourage new groups to be formed, he added.

“It is very important to keep up our skills. We train every month, practice quality CPR and hold specialist nights – for example, what to do if a toddler is choking.”

Support within the group of volunteers is also important if a death occurs during a call-out.

“That unfortunately is part of what we have to deal with. It is difficult. We have a support system within the HSE. If it does happen, we can talk to someone if necessary but we also have a peer group. We don’t talk about it outside but we can talk about it confidentially between ourselves.”

For more information about the conference at the Tullamore Court Hotel, see cfr.ie or email info@cfr.ie

Read: Man who spent night trapped under mini-digger recovering in hospital

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