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​Why I Became A CFR - Ash O'Malley

Picture of Ash O'Malley, CFR from HerefordAsh O’Malley works as a mechanical design engineer and lives in Hereford.

He was trained in First Aid at work but wanted to take it to an advanced level and that is why he became a Community First Responder (CFR); one of a number of people who volunteer their free time to respond to medical emergencies near them while an emergency ambulance vehicle is en-route. He is also currently training to become an instructor for the Herefordshire Heartstart charity.

After seeing an appeal on the internet, Ash applied for a position, underwent the training provided by West Midlands Ambulance Service, accompanied ambulance crews during their shifts and, after successfully qualifying as a CFR he began responding himself. Ash “books-on” with the ambulance service’s control room on weeknights and occasional weekends while he is at home in the centre of Hereford.

He said: “My first job was to an unconscious person at a residential home. It taught me the golden rule - never to assume, because I assumed it would be a resident, but it was in fact a member of staff who was taken ill.”

Ash has been a CFR for two years and recently attended his one-hundredth incident: “I’ve responded to care homes, a coffee shop, car parks and a football club amongst calls to domestic addresses.

“The most notable incident was on a train. It stood out because it was still full of people. I arrived on scene the same time as the paramedic. We were directed by rail staff across the platform and onto the train to find a man critically ill on board. Fortunately there was a doctor travelling in the same carriage who was maintaining his airway. I assisted the paramedic by carrying and fetching equipment, preparing kit and taking down the patient’s observations as he was assessed. The railway staff were very prepared; they halted the trains so we could carry the patient across the lines and into the ambulance. I remember thinking it surreal to be working on board a train - not something they taught us in the classroom!”

The training provided by West Midlands Ambulance Service for Community First Responders is on-going and continuous. Ash explained: “We receive monthly training. Every year we have an update of new procedures and we have to re-qualify every three years. Last year I was very fortunate to be invited to the control room where I listened to emergency calls coming in, and then watched the dispatchers sending vehicles out to the cases.

Picture of exercise to simulate incident involving a 52-seater bus“A friend of mine who is a paramedic roped me into playing a ‘live’ casualty in an exercise to simulate a large incident earlier in the year. I was an injured front-seat passenger of a car wedged under a 52-seater bus on a cold January evening. It was a good insight into how to deal with patients and the importance of communicating well with them.

“For me, being a Community First Responder costs me nothing more than my time and I find it very rewarding. It’s good to be in a position to help people when their worst nightmares are unfolding. It’s not always like that, but it can be sometimes. Everyone is very thankful for your help.”

For more information about the work of Community First Responders or to become one yourself, either find details within our CFR pages, visit the website for Hereford & Worcester CFR Scheme, call Noel Orbell, Community Response Manager for Hereford and Worcester on 07980 094808 or contact the CFR Admin Office by email or call 01384 215855.