Saturday 27 December 2014

A rapid response to save lives

A local emergency response initiative in West Cork is saving two lives per month, writes Áilín Quinlan

John Kearney (left) co-founder of Rapid Response and Dr Jason van der Velde, prehospital critical care physician and volunteer doctor for West Cork Rapid Response
John Kearney (left) co-founder of Rapid Response and Dr Jason van der Velde, prehospital critical care physician and volunteer doctor for West Cork Rapid Response

PIC0TURE the scene – it's early in the morning and a father is reversing out of his driveway on the way to work.

His five-year-old hurries outside to wave goodbye – but in a nightmarish scene his dad doesn't see him, and accidentally reverses over him.

The youngster suffers horrific injuries.

The child's frantic parents contact the emergency services.

John Kearney, founder of Irish Community Rapid Response, a community-based emergency response service which started in West Cork in 2009 and is about to be rolled out nationwide, takes up the tale: "When the ambulance service got there it was feared the child would be unable to survive the journey to hospital.

"Our doctor arrived on the scene. He was able to stabilise the child until he got to hospital.

That five-year-old made a full recovery and is back in school today."

And that, says Kearney, a father-of-three who runs a Marine Tourism business in the picturesque seaside town of Baltimore in West Cork, "is the kind of thing that keeps me going".

Irish Community Rapid Response (ICRR) has been nominated for a 2013 Social Entrepreneurs Ireland Impact Award of €200,000 sponsored by DCC. The awards will be announced today.

The roots of the ICRR initiative – which now saves an average of two lives a month and was featured in a recent RTE documentary – stretch back to a diving expedition by Kearney and some friends off the remote island of Cape Clear back in 2005. One man got into serious difficulties in the water. The emergency services were called.

It was a bank holiday weekend, however, and the system was overstretched:

"An emergency services helicopter was called but they were unable to supply one immediately. It was some time before my friend was evacuated. He could have died," says Kearney bleakly.

The man survived – but the delay in getting him to treatment, recalls Kearney, resulted in his friend having limited mobility for the rest of his life.

"That was the catalyst for me. After that I learned a lot about the golden hour and how important it is to get help for someone in a difficult situation in that crucial first hour.

The experience graphically highlighted to Kearney just how difficult it can be for the existing services to deal with emergencies in remote or isolated parts of the country – and the importance of having a local service which could respond rapidly and take up the slack.

He decided to do something about it. "I decided to set up a system under which sophisticated medical treatment can be made available at remote locations in the event of an emergency."

Kearney's community-based emergency response system originally began in West Cork in 2009, and quickly became known as West Cork Rapid Response.

Irish Independent

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