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Helping save lives
GOF Smith, 63, lives in Faringdon and has been a First Responder for 12 years.
He said: “When someone dials 999 their call is categorised and if it is within three miles of my house and is a red alert, I jump in the car and go – although sometimes I am close enough to run there.
“I calm relatives, start CPR and in the case of a cardiac arrest, when the defib says press a button, I press it.”
In the UK, 135,000 people die each year due to a heart attack or myocardial infarction. Two thirds of these die before they even reach hospital.
Death is often due to a potentially lethal, electrical abnormality in the heart called ventricular fibrillation (VF). But this is treatable – by defibrillation, which electric shocks the heart back into action.
Mr Smith said: “The defibrillators we carry are easy to use and work when a person’s heart is still moving, even if it is not beating.
“Basically a light comes on and the machine tells you to ‘shock’ the person’s heart, the aim being to get it beating and them breathing again, in readiness for the ambulance crew’s arrival.”
He continued: “People who find out I’m a CFR say: “Oh I couldn’t do that! What if I got it wrong? But you can’t get it wrong. You do what you are trained to do, what the defib tells you to do and then the ambulance crew arrive to take over. And I’ve got to say there is nothing like it.
“It is totally humbling to have a relative or even a patient, come up to you, put their arms around you and thank you for having helped save a life.”
DAVID Hatton is living, breathing proof of the value of CFRs.
The father-of-two from Faringdon was standing in his garden talking to his wife Louise one afternoon in July 2007, when he suddenly dropped to the ground, lifeless.
He said: “I was 39, fit and had no health worries, but Louise said I looked like a puppet whose strings had been cut.”
Mr Hatton had suffered a massive cardiac arrest, just like the one that had killed his own father at the age of 38.
But luckily for him, Gof Smith lived just 200 yards away and was on the scene within seconds of the emergency call.
Mr Smith said: “I arrived to find David being given full CPR by a neighbour, who is a nurse. He had no pulse and wasn’t breathing, but the defib said to shock him and I did. His heart started beating but I knew it wasn’t doing well.”
Mr Smith used a bag and oxygen mask to help Mr Hatton breathe, and when the ambulance arrived he continued to do this all the way to the JR Hospital.
He said: “As we went up the drive to the JR the paramedic said ‘It looks like we are going to lose him’. But thankfully for David the heart surgeon saved him.”
Three days later David Hatton was told of what had happened to him.
He said: “The last I knew I was talking to Louise. I can’t remember anything else.
“Five years on, I am fit and well and working as a plumber, but I know one thing – If it wasn’t for Gof, I wouldn’t be here at all.”