Bridport & West Dorset News, Views, Videos & Curiosities

Marshwood heart attack: Dorset First Responders in action

THE SUN was hot and bright – far more so than the date or time would indicate: 24 minutes and 42 seconds after noon on Friday 25th of March. A mobile phone rang.

A Responder drove steadily south through Marshwood; Jacqui Sewell knew where she needed to go. Seven minutes after the call, she arrived. This was up to the limit applied to First Responders – to get to the scene in just eight minutes. Not bad from Broadwindsor.

It doesn’t matter who the patient was nor what was wrong with him – as it happens he is fine after checkups in Dorchester – what matters is that a call for someone “feeling unwell” had been actioned so swiftly. Heart problems benefit most from prompt treatment and Jacqui had all but completed the primary checks when, three minutes later, a paramedic arrived by road.

I had seen Jacqui not speeding through Marshwood and then I heard the helicopter. At first a yellow glint in the sunlight, the Eurocopter EC 135 T2+ reached 150 mph en route from Henstridge Airfield but was now slowing to circle the house of the patient. It swung into a fast, tight orbit looking for a landing site. A field behind the house was possible but across the road with easier access was the Strawbridge’s Foxdown Farm.

Dorset & Somerset Air Ambulance in action at Marshwood in West Dorset

Pulling back on the cyclic stick, pilot Phil Merritt killed the speed, slowing as the downwash hit the ground, cushioning the descent. Comfortably on the ground less than 50 meters from the victim, the air medic joined the others 6 minutes after the First Responder responded. A Honda steered with local knowledge had beaten the state of the art technology crammed into the glistening airframe. One lady had beaten the three-man crew. Really there should have been two First Responders but Broadwindsor’s team is thin on the ground and Marshwood’s volunteers are working hard to get clearance for take off.

When the highly skilled paramedic took charge and made headway, Jacqui now did what every medic hates, she started on the paperwork. What the air paramedic bought to the party was as high-tech as the rest of his mission. Switching on the heart monitor told the team that the patient needed further examination in hospital surroundings. By now a ground ambulance had arrived so could head into Dorchester with the patient, but the helicopter would be faster and more comfortable.

The 53-plate First Responder Honda was 4-wheel drive so could take the patient the short distance across the field to the helicopter. Everyone retired to a safe distance as the pilot spooled up both engines and the rotors turned. Phil Merrit lifted his team into the air and swung to head northeast before dipping the Eurocopter’s nose and pushing on the power to swoop forwards, upwards and Dorchester-wards.

Within minutes the patient would be in the hands of some of the best cardio specialists in the country. I know this as I could have been that patient, but they got to me first!

This was a perfect example of all the different disciplines – air and ground ambulance teams, paramedic and your local First Responders working together for one person’s benefit – makes you feel good doesn’t it.

So join in – if you live in Marshwood or Bettiscombe call Annemieke Blondeel, 01308 868543, if not call Jacqui Sewell 01308 867145.