Meet the clinical volunteers saving lives in Norfolk on their days off
PUBLISHED: 10:11 28 July 2020 | UPDATED: 10:13 28 July 2020
As part of our week-long series celebrating the 50th anniversary of Norfolk Accident Rescue Service (NARS), we spoke to the doctors, critical care paramedics and nurses saving lives in their spare time.
If you suffer a cardiac arrest outside of hospital, statistics show that your chances of survival are approximately one in 10 in the UK. This means that whether or not you live is largely dependent on who you’re standing next to and who can get to you in time.
Norfolk Accident Rescue Service (NARS) is a medical charity with a rapid response team of highly-trained paramedics attending the scene of life-threatening emergencies on their days off. Dr Fiona Andrews and Mark Milsom both volunter with NARS as a doctor and critical care paramedic respectively, responding to emergencies from their home in Bale, north Norfolk. The husband-and-wife team give up their own time to offer critical care at incidents.
“We are tasked by the ambulance service critical care desk either by mobile phone or handheld radio,” Fiona explains. “We drop what we are doing and respond, driving to the scene of the emergency in our own vehicle, fitted with blue lights and sirens.”
“NARS may be the first medical resource on scene when the ambulance service is stretched to its limit in rural areas,” Mark says. “The types of calls we attend include cardiac arrests, falls, farming and industrial accidents, asthma attacks, chokings and drownings. We are able to provide additional skills at the roadside, such as sedation for fracture management and cardioversion for abnormal heart rhythms.”
NARS paramedics are equipped to administer advanced pre-hospital care that traditional ambulance services cannot provide, including ventilators and the LUCAS chest compression system – a mechanical device that administers life-saving CPR, thereby freeing up hands. They also carry additional medication, as Mark explains: “We can provide stronger pain relief, for example, as well as medications such as ketamine which is used to relieve pain and sedate patients.”
“Every incident we attend is different,” Fiona says. “Each time we work with the ambulance service for the best outcome for the patient. That may be a relatively small contribution, such as improved pain relief, or a major contribution like using a technique or medication to save someone’s life. There are definitely patients alive today whose lives have been saved by NARS volunteers.”
NARS does not receive any government funding and relies completely on the generosity of the community it serves, with all donations used directly for patient care. And while the pandemic meant that NARS invested in Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for its volunteers to keep patients safe, funding has decreased just as their workload has skyrocketed.
“The collection boxes are emptier at the moment as the public rarely use cash nowadays and we are unable to hold fundraising events,” Mark explains. “Our work, however, has increased due to coronavirus and we desperately need the public to support us.”
“We are humbled by the public’s support for our work,” Fiona says. “And very proud to be able to give something back to our community.”
The work they do also extends to health and safety awareness initiatives that educate the public on how to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). NARS volunteers give presentations in schools, host CPR days in villages and towns, and encourage businesses to install defibrillators at workplaces across the county. Mark says: “We strongly advise that all members of the public learn basic first aid, including CPR and how to use a community defibrillator.”
Al Moore is another NARS volunteer paramedic and nurse based in Sculthorpe who covers all the running costs of his Volvo response vehicle. “I moved to Norfolk three years ago and started volunteering for NARS after retiring from the Metropolitan Police,” Al says. “We are there for one reason: to save lives. And when you get someone back from a cardiac arrest and meet them again someday... that handshake is one of those no-words-required moments.”
And it is donations from the people of Norfolk that allow those kinds of handshakes to happen.
For more information or to make a donation please visit nars.org.uk
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