Out of the Ashes : Stories from Lancashire

Episode 1: Community first responder helps save the life of Leyland resident

July 10, 2023 Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service Season 1 Episode 1
Out of the Ashes : Stories from Lancashire
Episode 1: Community first responder helps save the life of Leyland resident
Show Notes Transcript

In our first episode, we speak to a woman whose heart stopped beating and the community first responder who, along with the North West Ambulance Service (NWAS) crew, saved her life. 

Diane Fenton went into cardiac arrest at her home in Leyland in January 2023. Her husband immediately dialled 999 and began chest compressions, Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service’s first ever community first responder, Andy Dow, was the first to arrive on scene. 

Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service is running a trial involving non-operational staff volunteering as community first responders from the workplace, supporting North West Ambulance Service. Community first responders are trained to provide life-saving treatment to patients in the vital first few minutes of an emergency until ambulance crews arrive.

If you’re interested in becoming a Community First Responders (CFR), you can send your name and address to CFR.recruitment@nwas.nhs.uk to find out if NWAS are looking for volunteers in your community. 

And remember if you liked our episode, please like and subscribe and let’s make Lancashire safer together.

[00:00:00.330] - Host

Welcome to Lancashire Fire and Rescue Services first podcast series - Out of the Ashes: Stories from Lancashire. You may not associate Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service with medical emergencies, but we often collaborate with other organisations to help improve services to the public.

[00:00:20.360] - Host

We are currently running the trial involving non-operational staff volunteering as community first responders supporting North West Ambulance Service. Volunteers respond to life threatening emergencies in their communities from the workplace and administer first aid in the initial vital minutes before the North West Ambulance Service colleagues arrive. The partnership aims to save lives in Lancashire's communities.

[00:00:43.550] - Host

In today's episode, we'll be talking to Diane Fenton, a woman whose heart stopped beating, and Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service's first community responder, Andy Dow, who you work along with North West Ambulance crew save Diane's life. Diane, how are you today?

[00:00:58.310] - Diane

Good, thank you.

[00:00:59.140] - Host

Thank you very much for taking the time. The same to you, Andy, are you okay?

[00:01:02.280] - Andy

Yeah, I'm good today. Thanks.


[00:01:03.900] - Host

So, shall we start the conversation off with what you remember from the day, Diane?

[00:01:09.260] - Diane

I had the grandchildren over for the week. Got up in the morning, did whatever we normally would do, took the children back to Halifax. I drove, dropped the children off. It's an hour and probably about an hour and 15 minutes drive. Got back onto the bypass, decided I wanted a brew, went to McDonald's drive through, got a brew, went to the next forecourt, got fuel, got back on the bypass. And that is the last thing that I remember until waking up in hospital.

[00:01:49.570] - Host

Right, so did you make it safely home?

[00:01:52.980] - Diane

Apparently so.

[00:01:54.180] - Host

But you have no memory whatsoever?


[00:01:56.170] - Diane

None whatsoever, no.

[00:01:57.690] - Host

So let's go to Andy. What do you remember from when you first arrived to Diane's house?

[00:02:04.600] - Andy

Yeah. So I was at work, just finishing off me daily tasks. I was doing some admin, sat in the office. The app went off for the ambulance service, which we have on the phone, and it said that there was a female, collapsed, unresponsive at a home address, which was just up the road, literally from the fire station. So probably a minute and 10 seconds it was to the home address. They rang me on the way to the job to say it's still a priority one emergency, so they were leaving me on the job and to give them any update when I arrived on scene. So as I got in the front door of the property, Diane's husband had just started to do compressions on her, which was a good indication to me that things were a little bit more severe than just collapse unresponsive. So at that point, I got my defibrillator out the bag, did a quick scene assessment and then put the defibrillator onto Diane, which then analysed her and literally, probably 30 seconds later, it has said there was a shock advised, which means that her heart was in a rhythm that was shockable. And I was able to deliver a shock with the defibrillator. 

[00:03:13.990] - Andy

So that was probably four minutes in from the 999 call being made that we were able to

[00:03:18.800] - Host

very quick

[00:03:19.440] - Andy

get a shock in and started then doing compressions and carrying on at scene really.


[00:03:27.030] - Host

So, do you remember anything about the day, Diane, do you remember starting to feeling unwell in the car or is there no?


[00:03:33.490] - Diane

No, like I say, I got on the bypass, didn't feel unwell, never had a headache, nothing. And the last thing I remember is, like I say, is getting on that bypass. Don't remember coming off the bypass, don't remember getting on the motorway. So I've obviously driven home for an hour, an hour and ten minutes. Whether I was unwell there, I don't know.

[00:04:00.570] - Host

Does your husband describe, can he remember how you were on that day when you got home? Did he see any differences?

[00:04:07.080] - Diane

Yeah, he said when I came in, I just kept saying to him, I was feeling unwell. I'd got a pain in my neck. He said, I went upstairs to rest, he came up to bring me a drink and he said, I'd lost all colour at that point. He sat me up and then he said, I'd got pain at that point then shooting down this side of the arm. He knew obviously something was completely wrong. Got me downstairs and then once I was downstairs was when I collapsed, apparently.


[00:04:44.830] - Host

It was quite a quick,

[00:04:45.920] - Diane

Very quick, for me, getting home. Yeah.

[00:04:48.320] - Host

Yes. So if I just give a little bit of background so the listeners understand, Diane went into cardiac arrest at home in Leyland back in January of this year, and her husband was the one that made the 999 call and started to give chest compressions. Andy is our community fire safety officer based at Leyland and was first to arrive, followed by the paramedics. So, like you say, it was a very quick situation from getting home, to feeling unwell, to Andy arriving at the scene.

[00:05:16.990] - Diane


[00:05:17.990] - Andy

And I think I remember asking him, was there anything that had led up to the incident? And he just said pretty much what he said there, that you were complaining that your shoulder was sore and then you just collapsed and there was no previous medical history that we knew of, there was no previous heart related incidents or anything like that?

[00:05:36.640] - Diane

I'm never ill!

[00:05:37.390] - Andy


[00:05:37.690] - Host

So it was dead out, very out of the usual. Your husband knew straight away that something was wrong?

[00:05:43.970] - Diane

Yeah, because it's very rare that I'm ill.

[00:05:46.030] - Host

Andy, when you were there, were you speaking to Diane's husband? Were you helping along?

[00:05:52.740] - Andy

It's a bit of an alien process for people that are outside the medical world. They don't see it often, so I explained what I needed to do, where I needed to put the pads, so we got on and just did that. Your son was present and he was very worried as well, so tried to calm him down. A little bit. In fact, I think I asked him to look out for the ambulance crew and guide them in. And the dogs were knocking about as well, so he made sure that they weren't going to run out the front door if others were coming in. Because it's all about the whole scene, really, and making sure that we can get everything as safe as possible. 

The priority was just to get that defibrillator on, see if we could get a shock from the unit and obviously carry on with doing compressions, because, again, if your husband's not had any exposure to doing anything like that before, it's about getting quality CPR onto somebody as quickly as possible. And we know that doing that, the outcomes are far greater than not.

[00:06:53.810] - Host

How long were you in hospital, Diane, if you don't mind me asking?

[00:06:57.510] - Diane

Two weeks.

[00:06:58.470] - Host

Two weeks. And if you hadn't been there, the circumstance could have been very different, couldn't they Andy?

[00:07:03.580] - Andy

Yeah, there's loads of factors that could have been different, really. Yano, I could have been further away, the crew could have been further away. I might not have been, I might have booked off for the day and then you were relying on the next nearest available resource to get to you. And minutes really do matter in these scenarios.

[00:07:21.150] - Host

So how are you now, Diane? You've heard you've gone back to work...

[00:07:25.710] - Diane

Oh yeah.


[00:07:26.040] - Host

You've just said you're ripping out a bathroom. Are you feeling back to yourself?


[00:07:30.290] - Diane

Yeah, yeah pretty much. So it's all thanks to Andy, thanks to the ambulance crew that I am where I am.


[00:07:39.860] - Host

Yeah, you are very lucky. And Andy, have you always wanted to help people? How have you got into this?

[00:07:47.850] - Andy

Yeah, so my background with all things medical is, at the age of six, I joined St John's Ambulance as what's known as a badger back then, and I'm still part of St John's Ambulance now. I'm trained ambulance crew for them. 

In 2016, when I moved to the Preston area, a friend of mine was part of the first responder group for that area and suggested it might be something that I'd be looking to get involved with, which I did. And then since then, I've been responding, in my free time, for the ambulance service to emergencies within the community. So I've always been in a role where I've been like, community facing. So I've worked in a school doing health and safety and I was a Coast Guard for 15 years, so I've got that.

[00:08:35.170] - Host

You've Always wanted to give back

[00:08:35.580] - Andy

Yeah. I've always been that back round of wanting to help and be supported to our communities and just seemed a natural thing to do, really. And obviously, with the medical training that I had through St John, it was the next step, really, and no job is the same, really. So you still don't like to say it, but you get that buzz when you go to an incident.

[00:08:56.650] - Andy

It challenges you, it makes you think, it keeps you fresh, because you have to learn as you go along. So the exposure to doing instance gives you that learning experience, really keeps you.


[00:09:08.220] - Host

How long have you been a community first responder within the fire service?


[00:09:12.130] - Andy

So within the last probably eight months, our deputy chief fire officer was having a conversation around first responders and looking at what we could do as a service. And I expressed to him that I was already part of the first responder network, that I was trained. So we had a meeting, we had a get together and he encouraged and empowered me to be able to sign on while I was at work and just said, when you're out and about, please do respond to medical emergencies, if you could be of an assistance. So it's because of that conversation that allowed me to be able to be booked on and available. 

And since then, we've progressed within the service and looking at more staff coming on board. So we've got a further four members of staff now that are just about to start training and then they'll be able to book on and be available when they're out and about for work and respond again in the community and potentially help save lives. That's the goal, really.


[00:10:09.840] - Host

Diane, what do you think about the fire service supporting the ambulance?

[00:10:13.420] - Diane

Absolutely brilliant. You cannot fault, I can't fault what Andy's done. I mean, if it hadn't been for him, I won't be sat here today. Yano, What did you say?, sorry.

[00:10:28.970] - Host

No, it's all right. It's a very emotional experience and I can clearly see today that you're very grateful and will be for a long time for Andy's work and yes, we don't need to expand on that one anymore. I can see the emotion.

[00:10:49.110] - Diane

I just think this should all fire services should have the likes of Andy present on shift because this is what saved my life.

[00:11:00.930] - Andy

Yeah, we're not trying to take roles away from people. There's still that role out there for the ambulance service. We obviously can't do them extended skills that the ambulance clinicians can, but we can be that pair of hands

[00:11:15.270] - Host

that extra support

[00:11:15.730] - Andy

straight away, putting on the chest, putting a defibrillator on our fire engines, all have defibrillators and medical kits on them. So if we can utilise equipment, the training that our staff undertakes.

[00:11:29.120] - Diane

The thing is though, you've also then got to appreciate if there's a fire service, like within Leyland. I live minutes away from the fire service, and Leyland is not a massive big place. So let's just say there was, I don't know, a big incident somewhere. You would be the vital person if an ambulance couldn't attend before you could get there. So your job is equally as important as the ambulance crew, you work together as a team. That's why I'm sat here.

[00:12:07.550] - Andy

Yeah. And I think the luxury of my role is because I'm not a firefighter, I'm not frontline staff, I'm a community fire safety practitioner. I go out into our communities, do home fire safety, it allows me to be able to be within our community and yano I'm not getting diverted off to fire calls. So if there is a medical call that's within a minute, as it was in this situation, then I can respond to that. I can always go back to what I'm doing. I can have that conversation with the people that I'm seeing and just say, look, I'm really sorry. There's a medical emergency I need to attend to and progress towards that incident. Then I'm not tied up at like a fire scene and we're not delaying a fire resource getting somewhere. We've still got that separation, really.

[00:12:56.810] - Host

Diane, what's the one piece of advice you'd like to give to the listeners about what you've been through?

[00:13:05.450] - Diane

Respect. Respect the fire guys, respect the ambulance guys. They are doing an absolute amazing job.

[00:13:15.260] - Host

And I think this is a part where I was speaking to Andy before the episode that people think firefighters and the fire service just put out fires. And like you've discussed, we do a lot more than just going to a fire. No two days are the same in this job.

[00:13:31.760] - Andy

No, it's so diverse now, the role of the fire service and what we do in our communities. And we are community focused because ultimately, that's the people that we're out there serving. And whether that's from a fire point of view that we're attending fire related incidents, or if we're just having that simple conversation with somebody when we're out and about and just giving that them key fire safety messages or even any safety messages that we're putting out there as an organisation, it's all about keeping Lancashire safe. So that's the goal, isn't it?

[00:14:00.980] - Host

Is there one piece of advice you'd like to give the listeners today?

[00:14:04.830] - Andy

I'd say to people, don't be afraid to help. If you see somebody in distress or that's having a medical episode, do try and help. Pick up the phone, ask for the ambulance service, their operators are really well trained. They will give you step by step advice of what to do. They won't leave you on your own to try and work out what to do next. They will give you that advice and support over the phone. But learn a life saving skill. Learn CPR if you can, and you've got the opportunity to learn how to do CPR, even if it's just hands only the compressions, then that skill can make that big difference. And people not being afraid, you can't make the situation any worse. If that person is in cardiac arrest and you start compressions, you're not making anything any worse because they're already in a worse position and even more so if you don't do anything. So it's just having the confidence, really, of being able to do something like that.

[00:15:00.930] - Host

Because those compressions until, say, the crews arrive can save someone's life.

[00:15:05.240] - Andy

Oh, yeah, definitely. Because that early CPR is what helps. Because what app does it circulates the oxygenated blood around the body and it keeps that person viable for further ongoing treatments like defibrillating, drug therapies and stuff like that, because that volume and blood pressure is being sustained by the compressions and that's what ultimately helps save people's lives.

[00:15:29.150] - Host

Thank you both for sharing your story today. Thank you, Diane, for coming in and sharing your amazing story. And again to you, Andy. It's a wonderful story to share.

[00:15:41.310] - Diane

I also just like to say before we go, on speaking with Andy and thanking Andy and the ambulance crew, which I absolutely love doing. We talked about trying to get around Leyland area. I've been in touch with one or two of the shops and we're looking into trying to get defibs, but I think there needs to be and this is on speaking with Andy that needs to be more defibs around the areas. Which, when you know like Andy said  if he was out, the first thing you need to know is where your nearest defib is and how you can go and access it. And without these defibs around the area, which we've not got in Leyland, I think there's one.


[00:16:31.550] - Andy

Yeah, there's a couple. Most of the supermarkets now have them. I know from where I think the priory club near us has one, but the few and far between. So, yeah, it's definitely worth people looking at that. It's probably worth having a look in your local communities of where your nearest defibs is.

[00:16:51.110] - Host

It's about educations isn't it. I'm not sure I'd know where mine are in St. Anne's.

[00:16:54.200] - Andy

Yeah, normally they're in a yellow cabinet on the wall or a green, something like that. It's marked anyway. And most of them are key coded access so that you can't just take them out and go off with them. So if you ring the ambulance service, they will normally tell you where your nearest defibrillator is, if you don't know. And they'll give you the code to be able to send somebody and get it out of the cabinet. So if you've got somebody available that can go and get it out of the cabinet, then great, send somebody straight away for it. But yeah, knowing where your local defib is is massive. If schools have now got the most schools across the county have all got them because that was a big change in the education system that they made it a mandatory requirement to have a defibrillator in there.

[00:17:35.840] - Host

Thank you for taking the time today to share your story. Anyone can save a life and it can be a matter of minutes to learn these skills. It could make the difference between life and death for someone.

[00:17:46.210] - Host

If you're interested in becoming a community first responder, you can send your name and address to CFR.recruitment@nwas.nhs.uk to find out if NWAS are looking for volunteers in your community. The link will be in our podcast notes.

[00:18:02.260] - Host

And remember, if you liked our episode, please like and subscribe and let's make Lancashire safer together.