Rolf McLaughlin, Denise McLaughlin, Niall Sheridan, Liam Maguire, National Ambulance Co-Ordinator for CFR groups, and Farai Bvunzawabaya.

Virginia First Responders to 'go live'

A group of volunteer first responders are set to “go live” to help deal with emergency situations across the south-east of the county.

Members of the Virginia First Responders were in Carrickmacross recently taking part in a study day held specially for North-East Community First Responder (CFR) groups under the National Ambulance Service. Afterwards, they were rewarded with a new Automated External Defibrillator (AED).

Virginia First Responders (VFR) Operations Director, Niall Sheridan, explains that VFR will respond to incidents such as suspected cardiac arrests, chest pain, choking and stroke calls in the Virginia and Ballyjamesduff areas.

Niall is a retired clergyman, a qualified nurse, coroner, a trained pre-hospital emergency medical technician, and is also one of the country's premiere professional Santas at Christmas time.

“We're working, as a group, on being prepared for when we do go live,” Niall tells the Celt. “All things considered, we'll be up and running by early May.”

He strongly believes that VFR can make a difference in terms of saving lives.

“We have the equipment, we have the training, we have the volunteers. We have the backing of the National Ambulance Service most importantly. So we're ready.”

He has first-hand experience of the difference professional emergency first responders can make.

His wife of six years, Colette, collapsed at home having suffered a bleed on the brain. Niall had an emergency kit in the house including an AED, and did enough to start stabilising her condition before four advanced paramedics arrived to the couple's home within minutes. Despite all their best efforts, Colette sadly died.

VFR has at present more than a dozen volunteers on its books. Two of those are Emergency Medical Technicians, I'm one, and another is a nurse, and we have a secondary list of people who've said they'd come on board later one, one of whom is a nurse in Navan, previously a children's nurse with Laura Lynn's Hospice.”

As per the arrangement in place with the NAS, the “nearest available” cardiac first responder will take the lead until back-up arrives.

One thing that has amazed Niall about the progress of the group to date is how the training and the experience has bonded them as a group.

“We're as close as a family in one sense, because we are open to one another, and put confidence in each other. We know we will have each other's backs.”

VFR meets every second Thursday at St John's Hall at 7:30pm (beside St Joseph's Nursing Home).

For more details contact Niall on 086-6003590.