The husband of an Aberdeenshire woman who died in an ambulance on a 55-mile journey to hospital has set up a volunteer group to give other rural residents the best chances of survival in emergencies.
Care home manager Pam Anderson, 74, suffered a heart attack on September 24 last year at her Braemar home.
The first ambulance that arrived had only one crew member, and Pam and her husband Doug had to wait a full 40 minutes for a two-man crew from Tomintoul to arrive and pick her up for transport to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary.
Tragically, she died during the journey.
Since Braemar’s own ambulance was withdrawn in 2007, the nearest vehicle has been based in Ballater, a 17-mile drive away.
To help make sure that others facing their own emergency situations get the best opportunities available for treatment, Mr Anderson, 74, has established the new Braemar Community First Responders Initiative, and has been overwhelmed by the support shown so far.
The first responder project is designed to save lives
The project, in partnership with the Scottish Ambulance Service (SAS), has already attracted 10 volunteers from all backgrounds, who will be able to give immediate initial treatment and aid to those in trouble while they wait for an ambulance crew to arrive.
Mr Anderson said: “There was the situation last year where my wife died, and my girls decided they really didn’t want to let this go.
“They didn’t want it to be a situation where a bereaved party moans and groans and does nothing about it.
“So my two girls decided they must do something about it, because there’s still me here, and people of my ilk in the local community.
“If we can save even one life from this then I’ll be happy.
“We need to have a service in place to assist people who need urgent assistance, and if the ambulance can’t get here quick enough, then at least the first responders can.
“If the volunteers can save a life, or keep somebody going until the ambulance crew gets here, we might just have enough time to get that patient transported to hospital safely.”
He added: “I’ve got 10 names on my sheet already, including four cardiac responders, a paramedic that finished 10 years ago but is keen to help their local community, an ex-nurse, and Dave from over the road.
“We have an introductory meeting on April 6, where people can find out what they’ll need to do or what’s involved.
“I think Pam would be highly delighted at the response we’ve had so far, and the girls are both chuffed to bits.”
“The more people that sign up the better”
Dave Williams, a former chef in the armed forces, is one of the volunteers who has put his name forward to be a first responder.
He said: “I think it’s a fantastic way to support the community.
“For any incidents that may or may not happen, we could be called out day or night as a first response while we wait for ambulances to arrive on the scene.
“If we had these first responders six months ago, it could be that Doug’s family could be in a completely different position.
“Braemar is pretty much at the end of the valley, and whichever way you come in, it’s one road in, one road out, so we find ourselves a little bit out on a limb sometimes.
“If a village or community like this can have the confidence that in an emergency they’ve got a cluster of people that can help in the first instance, then it’ll be better for everyone.
“The more people that sign up the better, so we can take it in turns and make sure the cover is always there.”
Anyone wishing to sign up for the first responders initiative or attend the online presentation on April 6 is urged to email email@example.com by March 31.
Initiative helps stabilise patients and provide appropriate care
The Scottish Ambulance Service helps community first responder volunteer groups all across Scotland to attend certain types of emergency calls in their local areas.
The idea behind the initiative is to help stabilise patients and provide appropriate care until more highly-skilled ambulance crews arrive on scene to take over treatment.
First responder teams are typically based in rural communities like Braemar, where it can take longer for ambulances to arrive than on urban call-outs.
Those who sign up to volunteer their time for the initiatives can receive training by the SAS on how best to help people in need.
A spokesman for the ambulance service said: “Community first responders are highly valued by the SAS and are a dedicated and important asset to the communities they serve.
“We would encourage all those interested to contact the Braemar Community First Responders Initiative or the community council to find out more.”
Aboyne, Upper Deeside and Donside councillor Geva Blackett has played a key role in establishing Braemar’s first responder group.
She said: “Braemar is an extremely resilient community and always willing to help find pragmatic solutions to problems that as a remote community we often face.
“It is clear to all that the SAS needs our help and we are happy to help design a community-based model that works for us and alleviates some of the strain on their resources.
“The life skills that the SAS training brings to volunteers are fantastic and I would encourage anyone interested in hearing more to join the question and answer session on April 6.”