Campaigners unveil Dereham town centre’s first community defibrillator

Big celebration to unveil Dereham's first town centre defibrillator at Dereham Library. Picture: Ian

Big celebration to unveil Dereham's first town centre defibrillator at Dereham Library. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: IAN BURT

Life-savers and fund-raisers gathered to celebrate the installation of a community defibrillator at Dereham library – the first 24-hour public access unit to be made available in the town centre.

The device, mounted outside the entrance to the High Street building, is also the first one in Norfolk to be placed at a public library.

The automated external defibrillator (AED) is able to provide life-saving heart shocks following a cardiac arrest, greatly improving a casualty's chance of surviving until medical professionals can arrive.

It was donated by Annette Alston, whose daughter Lucie Proctor died, aged 25, after suffering a cardiac arrest. A charitable fund set up in her memory has now paid for 16 community defibrillators around Norfolk.

Mrs Alston said: 'According to statistics, about 200 people per day suffer a sudden cardiac arrest and in 2008 my daughter Lucie became one of those 200. Her friends gave CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) to try and save her life, but they were unsuccessful. Had there been a defibrillator, they would have had a better chance.

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'We need people to pay attention to these funny yellow boxes with the green symbols. Defibrillators save lives, and it might be your life or the life of someone you love.'

The challenge of finding a suitable location for the AED was taken on by Nancy Briggs, of Dereham's Trefoil Guild, who said: 'I am really pleased. This is the culmination of a lot of work, but my journey of discovery has not quite ended.

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'I think that the Dereham Memorial Hall should have one, the football club should have one, and the Guides' centre at Patteson Lodge in Coltishall should have one.'

AEDs are portable electronic devices that automatically diagnose heart problems and apply electric shocks to the chest to allow the heart to re-establish an effective rhythm. It can be accessed following a 999 call and an automated voice guides the user through the process. It will only administer shocks if it detects a 'shockable' irregular heart rhythm.

The survival rate for cardiac arrest casualties, estimated at 5pc using CPR alone, jumps to an estimated 50pc with prompt defibrillation.

Stephen Theobald, an ambulance paramedic with the East of England NHS Trust, said: 'This is really important for the town. There are a lot of people that stop and look at the cabinet and wonder what it is all about, and it is starting to generate questions from businesses here.

'The more people that get involved and the more sites we have with public access defibrillators, the easier things become for us, because people will be able to provide first aid prior to our arrival. It gives people a better chance of life.'

Sarah Hassan, assistant head of service for Norfolk libraries, said: 'This is a first for us in Norfolk, and hopefully we will now be able to have more defibrillators in other libraries. Anything that supports that community is great for us.

'Cardiac arrests do not just happen to older people – a lot of children have heart problems too, so it is something that affects people across the whole community, so the library is an ideal place.'

Mr Theobald will be running informal sessions at Dereham Library from 10.30am-12.30pm on April 4, 7 and 8, to explain how the equipment works, how to access it from the cabinet following a 999 call, and how to use it.

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