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DJ Swaps Decks for Defibrillator to Turn Volunteer for Welsh Ambulance Service

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A North Wales radio presenter has swapped the decks for a defibrillator by becoming a volunteer for the Welsh Ambulance Service.

Oli Kemp, one half of ‘Lois & Oli’ on Heart North and Mid Wales, has just completed his training as a Community First Responder so that he can administer life-saving first aid to people in his community.

Oli, originally from London, now living near Llangollen, Denbighshire, has had a long-held ambition to become a first responder, ever since the sudden death of his 20-month-old daughter in 2012.

Oli Kemp in (WAST) Community First Responder uniform

He explained how the COVID-19 pandemic presented a perfect opportunity to pursue his passion, saying: “I’ve always loved the idea of becoming a paramedic but my career as a radio presenter has never really allowed me to pursue it.’

“I think lockdown provided a lot of people with clarity on what they want to do, because you want to look back on your life and to have achieved something.’

“We moved to Wales seven years ago and the community has been very good to us. This is my way of paying something back.”

Oli’s daughter, Willow, was being treated for a chronic lung infection at Manchester Children’s Hospital in 2012 when she suffered a cardiac arrest and sadly died. It was this life-changing event which inspired Oli to think about a career in the ambulance service and which also compelled his wife to train as a nurse.

Oli said: “Willow is my main inspiration for doing this, and also my wife’s, who now works as a nurse at Denbigh Community Hospital. That period in our life had its challenges, but we also learnt a lot about the NHS and how it works.’

“The community we live in is very rural, and I imagine that sometimes it’s difficult for an ambulance to get there quickly.

“Anything I can do to help people in the time before the ambulance arrives will hopefully make a difference.”

Community First Responders are volunteers who attend 999 calls in their community and administer first aid in the precious first minutes before an ambulance arrives.

They are trained by the Welsh Ambulance Service to administer first aid, including oxygen therapy and cardiopulmonary resuscitation, as well as the use of a defibrillator.

Oli said: “It is a bit nerve-wracking, especially when I think about the prospect of attending my first cardiac arrest, but that’s why you do your training.

“The fact that I’m helping people in my own community means there’s some familiarity there, so that helps to take the edge off. I’ll fit the volunteering around the radio show, so will likely do mornings and weekends.’

“My colleagues at Heart are really proud of me; there was definitely some gentle ribbing when I told them I’d qualified, but they’re chuffed I’m doing something positive.”

Glyn Thomas, the Trust’s Alternative Responder Manager, said: “Every second counts is an emergency, and the role that first responders play in initiating that chain of survival can literally mean the difference between life or death.’

A group of new Community First Response volunteers from WAST

“Oli’s one of seven new volunteers to join the service in North Wales, and we’re pleased that he has turned a tragedy into something positive to help people in their hour of need.’

“The Covid-19 pandemic has meant we’ve had to think differently about the way we deliver training to volunteers, and Oli was part of a cohort of new recruits to complete a brand new training package, which included some e-learning.’

“We’re taking some time now to evaluate that training, so while we’re not recruiting volunteers right now, we look forward to opening our books again in the coming months.”

Glyn added: “Volunteering at the Welsh Ambulance Service has come a long way in the last two decades.’

“Our volunteers don’t just provide life-saving support at events such as cardiac arrests; they’re also trained to deal with a broader range of medical emergencies, including non-injured fallers.’

“There are new and exciting plans afoot as we further embrace our volunteers as part of the #TeamWAST family, and we extend a warm welcome to our new recruits, including Oli.”

You can learn more about the role of Community First Responders here at http://www.ambulance.wales.nhs.uk/en/96

Ambulance Volunteer Mike Retires After 66 Years

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An award-winning South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SWASFT) volunteer community responder is taking a well-earned retirement after helping people in need for almost seven decades. 

Mike Kemp, from Liskeard in Cornwall, began his volunteering as a cadet with St John Ambulance in 1954. He was a long-serving officer with the organisation before finishing in 2006. 

Mike Kemp (right) with his son, Richard (left)

Mike has been a SWASFT Community First Responder (CFR) since 2002, treating thousands of patients in and around Liskeard, Looe and Par — and saving many lives. 

His legacy will continue through his son Richard who is a SWASFT Paramedic, and the new volunteers Mike has trained. 

CFR Mike Kemp with an AED

Mike said: “I have thoroughly enjoyed being a volunteer responder. No two days of responding are the same.’

“But it’s a privilege to be part of such a wonderful team, and know you are making a difference to people. 

“Once I was called onto a train to treat an unconscious diabetic patient who attacked the guard when he regained consciousness.’

Another time, when I was called to a care home, I was told that the elderly resident I was treating was just asleep and the real patient was on the other side of the room!”

One of Mike’s proudest achievements was becoming the first person to defibrillate a patient in 1988. 

Julia Cleeland-Smith, SWASFT Community Responder Officer for Cornwall, said: “I have been amazed at the dedication and commitment that Mike has given to support patients, community responders and enhanced first aid to the public.” 

Mike Kemp with Volunteer of the Year award at the Unsung Hero Awards (2018)

His volunteering with SWASFT was recognised in 2018 when he was given the Volunteer of the Year accolade at the Unsung Hero Awards. 

CFRs are trained volunteers who provide crucial treatment in the vital first few minutes of life-threatening emergencies while an ambulance is on the way. 

During Volunteers’ Week, SWAST has been celebrating the invaluable work of its 800 volunteers who respond to around 40,000 patients a year across the South West. 

Welsh Ambulance Service Celebrates Volunteers’ Week 2020

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The Welsh Ambulance Service has been celebrating the work of its volunteers as part of national Volunteers’ Week.

Volunteers’ Week (01-07 June) is an annual celebration of the contribution millions of people make across the UK through volunteering.

More than 1,400 volunteers give up their time to support the ambulance service in Wales, including 1,200 Community First Responders and 170 Volunteer Car Drivers.

Community First Responders are trained to deliver life-saving first aid prior to the ambulance service’s arrival.

Volunteer Car Drivers use their own vehicles to transport people to routine hospital appointments, including renal dialysis, oncology and outpatients appointments.

In 2019/20, they made 134,354 journeys across Wales and covered more than four million miles – the equivalent of driving to the moon and back eight times.

Elsewhere, Community First Responders are members of the public who are trained to deliver life-saving first aid to people in their own community prior to the ambulance service’s arrival. 

As a critical part of the chain of survival, Community First Responders play an active part is saving many lives across Wales every year.  

They have the equipment and know-how to administer treatment in those precious first minutes of an emergency, including CPR and defibrillation in the event of a cardiac arrest.

Last year, Community First Responders attended 29,000 emergencies, arriving at the scene of the most serious ‘Red’ calls in an average of six minutes and 49 seconds.

Jason Killens,
Chief Executive,
Welsh Ambulance Service

Jason Killens, Chief Executive of the Welsh Ambulance Service, said: “Our volunteers – be they in our car service or our Community First Responder group – give up their time to help us help our communities. 

“The time they give is substantial and makes a real difference to our patients across Wales 

“Without the support of our volunteers and their families and friends who support them to volunteer with us, we simply couldn’t operate the service that we do.

“The commitment from our volunteers through the Covid-19 pandemic has been incredible, and we would like to extend a huge thank you for their time and commitment, not just this Volunteers’ Week but year-round.”

Volunteer Car Drivers transport patients to and from routine hospital appointments using their own vehicle.

Martin Woodford, the Trust’s Chair, added: “As an ambulance service, we depend hugely on the contribution of our volunteers, come rain or shine, and never more so than during this frightening pandemic.’

“On behalf of our Board, I would like to express my enormous gratitude to all of our selfless volunteers, whether Community First Responders, Volunteer Car Drivers, or people who have simply stepped forward to help us in any way they can during these difficult times.”

“We are forever in your debt,” Martin added.

As well as Community First Responders and Volunteer Car Drivers, the Trust also relies on the support of St John Cymru Wales and uniformed first responders from the three Welsh fire and rescue services.

It is also supported by ‘BASICS’ doctors from the British Association of Immediate Care, who provide pre-hospital care at the scene of more complex emergencies.

To volunteer for the Welsh Ambulance Service, visit www.ambulance.wales.nhs.uk 
and head to the ‘Get Involved’ page. 

Visit http://volunteersweek.org for more information.