FIRST responder groups from across North Cork are gathering together to organise a fund-raising push next month.
The Community First Responders (CFR) groups will be coming together at Mallow Racecourse to push an ambulance 26.2 miles — 21 laps around the racecourse — in a bid to raise funds for the groups and raise awareness of their work in the communities.
The event, which brings together groups from Mallow, Doneraile, Buttevant, Ballyclough and Liscarroll, is called ‘A Big Push to Save Lives’ and will take place on April 27.
The event will take place alongside a family fun day, and CFR members will be helped in their task by firefighters and gardaí.
The groups, who aid the HSE in the North Cork area, work on responding to conditions such as heart attacks, cardiac arrests, strokes and choking when an ambulance is not readily available.
The group, now in its fifth year of operation, is made up of 80 first responders operating in rural communities, and has responded to more than 1,000 calls since its formation.
The event in Mallow next month will be one for celebration as they are gathering with local celebrities for the big push.
Combining a family fun day with CPR classes, the group will be joined by the likes of Wexford senior hurling boss and GAA personality Davy Fitzgerald in their attempt to raise funds and awareness.
The event is the first of its kind for the group and the main organiser is John Finnegan.
“We are trying to raise money to buy defibrillators, bags and training equipment to try and train up new and existing responders to the required level to benefit the community,” he said.
It was a busy winter for the first responders. John added: “It was a touch and go Christmas. We had three calls on Christmas Day.
“The most regular calls we deal with would be chest pains and then strokes. We have had a few choking calls but not as much as cardiac arrests then.
“There’s been more than a thousand calls since we have been set up since 2014. This year, between Doneraile, Buttevant and Mallow, we attended 14 call-outs up to the end of January alone.
“Calls can come in at any time and we are are 24/7. Calls can come in at three in the morning, five in the morning or any time in the morning.
“The average response time we would have by the time the phone goes off could be our quickest at two to three minutes and the maximum then would be ten minutes.
“Normally, if the ambulance is there fairly quick they would do about twenty minutes and they would make a decision.
“At the end then we meet up and break down the call and see what we have done and what we can do improve.
“Obviously, we try our best and to save someone is great, but we need to be be always at our best.”
John was quick to point out the organisation’s place in working alongside the HSE.
“There’s no fault to the national ambulance service, but if the Mallow Ambulance is out, the next available ambulance out could be Kanturk or Millstreet or even the city.
“At one stage we even had an ambulance that came up from Bantry as the next available resource. We are massive for cardiac arrest patients. For every minute there is no CPR being done, there is a 10% chance that that person isn’t going to survive.”
For such an operation to be done, a high level of fitness has to be maintained constantly. This is something the group as a whole has invested in outside their work, as John explained,
“There’s training on a weekly basis pushing the ambulance around. Then, on top of that, they’re going into the Lion’s Den fitness centre in Mallow for three or four nights a week for the training.
“The ambulance is going from four and a half to five tonnes, so they have a nice bit of weight there!
They’re making a huge effort there between the guards, the responders and I think there is some of the fire brigade there to join in. There’s a massive effort between the emergency services.”
Finishing up, John detailed the workings of the group and the individual differences they have made across rural communities in North Cork.
“We were called to a cardiac arrest last January. Before we arrived his next door neighbour and wife were doing CPR on him. We got in fairly quick and got two shocks onto him.
“In the meantime the advanced paramedic came from Mallow.
“He was in an induced coma for two days. That man is back now doing what he does and after the experience his wife has joined the group and she is involved with the group here now.”
‘A Big Push to Save Lives’ will take place on April 27, with the group beginning the push at 7.30am. It is a free event which will be run until 6pm.