“Get stuck in!” – Paramedic advice to the public

Wendy CunninghamCardiac Arrest survivor, Nurse Wendy Cunningham, visited ambulance service headquarters in November to meet the staff who helped saved her life following her arrest in Templemore Swimming pool in Belfast.

Describing them as her “heroes”, Wendy wanted to personally say thanks for everything they did that night. Sean Martin was the Rapid Response Paramedic who arrived at the scene to find CPR being performed by one of Wendy’s friends and a pool attendant who, in a very fortuitous coincidence, had actually been taught CPR by Wendy herself.

While they continued CPR, Sean placed the pads on Wendy to discover she was in the shockable rhythm of VF. After one shock, a pulse returned but Wendy was not yet out of the woods as she had not yet started breathing again. The A&E crew, Alison McKinley and Eugene Jordan had arrived to assist just as Wendy’s pulse disappeared again and she needed another shock to restore it.

Wendy was then transferred to the ambulance and brought to the RVH where a team was waiting for her. She spent some time in the hospital and has since returned to a fully active life.

Sean Martin, RRV Paramedic, believes that the key to Wendy’s survival was the early CPR that was given by Wendy’s friends. He would encourage everyone to learn how to do CPR to keep the blood flowing to the brain while the Paramedics make their way to the scene. His message, to anyone who might be a bit hesitant about doing chest compressions, is very simple “Get stuck in – do the chest compressions and you might save a life!”

Watch Wendy’s meeting with her heroes.

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“I thought he was going to kill me!” – Paramedic’s account of an assault on her by a patient.

Heather SharpeIn 2012, Rapid Response Paramedic, Heather Sharpe, received details of an emergency call in Newtownabbey. Everything about the call was routine until the moment she arrived at the house. There, her “patient” took it upon himself to physically assault the very person who had, on trust, come into his house to help him in his hour of need.

In the course of the assault, he ripped Heathers uniform and attempted to remove, from her, the only means of communication which she had with ambulance control – her radio and mic. In recalling the incident, Heather recounts how she was fearful for her life and really believed that he was going to kill her. As she tried to get away he wrestled with her from the top to the bottom of the stairs. When she got to the bottom she saw the chance to make her escape through the front door and she took it.

Once outside, she fixed her clothing as best she could, given that it had been ripped. But then she realised that in the house was the wife of the man who had just assaulted her. She began to fear for that lady’s safety and, unbelievably, went back in to see if she could get her out. When asked what would make a Paramedic do that, knowing the possible dangers that lay inside, her answer was simple – “It’s what makes a Paramedic” was all she said.

Help arrived in the form of another ambulance crew and the patient was taken to hospital. Heather was left trying, somehow, to make sense of what had just happened. She stood in that space between the house and her car, looking at each in turn, wondering how she had come to be in this position. Her ambulance shirt was ripped, so she put her coat on, to preserve a degree of modesty, lifted her Paramedic bag and got into her car to drive to the nearest ambulance station. There she was safe among her friends – safe enough to allow her to let her emotions out and she cried!

This is an account of one of approximately 250 assaults per year on ambulance staff. Heather, very bravely, has put her account of this story on film.

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Our Christmas Giving Tree

Elizabeth Reid, Lorraine Welsh, Richard McCormack, Orla O’Neill, Chris Quinn and Roisin Smyth are preparing the presents for shipping out

Staff in HQ and Control have responded magnificently to our Christmas Giving Tree appeal.

The tree in the reception area had a number of stars placed on it with details of a young person who might otherwise not have been receiving a present at this time of the year and staff were invited to take a star and replace it with present. It was absolutely amazing how quickly the stars were removed from the tree and how presents started to appear in their place.

This small gesture from all those who took part just shows that at this time of the year people are aware of how fortunate they are themselves and how grateful they are to be given the opportunity to help those in need. I hope that everyone who left a gift will take the time on Christmas Day to think that some child, somewhere has a big smile on their face because Santa didn’t forget them. You probably think it was nothing, but it will mean so much to the children and also to their parents.

Well done and thank you to you all!

Happy Christmas. 

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Choose Well this Festive Season


The Christmas Party season is now in full swing and we are already extremely busy. Please remember to Choose Well and call us only in an emergency.

Have fun but stay safe. If you are driving – don’t drink. If you are drinking – don’t drive.

We are anticipating a very busy time and we will get to you as soon as we can – BUT REMEMBER, there may be people who have a more urgent need than you. So please be patient.

Respect those who take your call in our control centre and respect those of our staff who are coming to help you.

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Alanna Casement Says Thanks to Lifesaving Paramedics

Alanna Casement meets lifesaving Paramedics Brian Lynn and Mark QuigleySeptember has arrived and kids are now back at school. It must be particularly hard for those who are moving from the familiarity of their primary school into the strange land of post-primary.

This time last year, one young girl should have been starting Assumption College in Ballynahinch, but due to a serious incident during the summer holidays this was all put on hold.

Alanna Casement fell off her bike and punctured a femoral artery starting a race against time to get her to hospital. Neighbours, ambulance and police all pulled together to save the life of this 11 year old.

In July this year, Alanna met with everyone involved to say thanks and this is what she had to say about everything when she met Paramedics Brian Lynn and Mark Quigley:

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Ambulances Involved in 2 Separate RTC’s While on 999 Calls

20150819_102024Ambulances have been involved in two separate Road Traffic Collisions this morning while dealing with emergency calls.

The first incident happened on the Shore Road at Whiteabbey at approximately 8:30 while the crew was responding to a non-life-threatening emergency call in Carrickfergus. The ambulance was driving on the main road when a vehicle emerged from a side road.

No-one was seriously hurt in the incident although the occupant of the car has been brought to RVH for treatment. The crew were shaken by the incident and have been given a period of downtime.

Later, at approximately 8:50 a second ambulance was en route to hospital, from Portrush, with a patient following another non-life-threatening emergency when a vehicle emerged from the side road and clipped the rear end of the ambulance 20150819_102526sending it into a spin before ending up on its side. The patient and crew are being treated for non-life-threatening injuries at Causeway hospital.

NIAS would repeat its calls for drivers to exercise extreme caution on the roads at all times.


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Paramedic assaulted by casualty at RTC in Antrim

A paramedic with the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service has been assaulted by the patient whom he was trying to help following a 2 vehicle road traffic collision on Dublin Road, Antrim on the evening of 23 July.


The crew arrived at the scene of the incident within four minutes of being notified which is reflective of their commitment and desire to help those in need.


When the crew arrived at the scene, one person required assistance but he became verbally aggressive before punching and kicking out at the paramedic who was trying to help. The paramedic, in trying to restrain the patient and protect himself, received a hand injury with potential ligament damage to his thumb. He continued with the call, taking his assailant to hospital for further treatment, before being checked out himself – further evidence of his own personal dedication to the job he has chosen to do.


Once again the Trust finds itself in the position of having to call for stiff sentences to be given to those who assault our staff. We do not believe that any circumstances justify such assaults. Our staff are committed to helping those who have an urgent need of assistance and should be left alone to do what they do best.

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Glad to be seeing in the New Year – thanks to Paramedic Neil Blackmore.

HSC Newsletter 2-15Mr Ashe from Bangor paid an emotional visit to Bangor ambulance station to Paramedic Neil Blackmore who played a major role in saving his life.

On Jan 1st this year, Mr Ashe had just returned to his own home after a bit of house sitting in Donaghadee. As he was unpacking, he just felt that something wasn’t quite right and he phoned his son, who lives in the apartment downstairs. “I told him – you’d better get up here”

When his son came up, he found his father in a bit of distress and they decided to phone for an ambulance. Ambulance control sent Rapid Response Paramedic, Neil Blackmore to the scene.

Mr Ashe takes up the story,

“I remember the medic putting the leads on my chest and taking a tracing of my heart. It was then I felt myself slipping away and I told him –I’m going out here!  The next thing I remember was coming round and then an ambulance crew arriving and taking me to the Royal. They took me into theatre, knocked me out and when I came round I was on the ward with stents having been put in. I stayed in the Royal for four or five days and was then transferred to the Ulster Hospital for another few days.

I just wanted to come and say thanks to the ambulance crews because my consultant told me that I am only here because the paramedic knew his stuff. I am so grateful to him and also to the doctors and nurses in the hospitals. Today I’m a bit wary about my health but I know it will get better as time goes on.”

Paramedic Neil Blackmore remembers the call well, it being his first Cardiac Arrest of the New Year.

“When I arrived I took a tracing and sent it to the Royal with the intention of taking Mr Ashe straight in for pPCI. While I was waiting for their okay, Mr Ashe went into VF arrest. I gave him one shock with the defibrillator and that combined with a cycle of CPR was enough to resuscitate him. Even more so, time was now of the essence. Mr Ashe was taken to the pPCI lab at the RVH and had stents inserted to clear his coronary arteries”.

This story is a stand-out  example of how Healthcare in Northern Ireland has developed over the years and is providing greater benefits to the patient. Many paramedics will recall how in time gone by, they would have been faced with a wait at the scene while the cardiac team arrived from the hospital. This situation improved when Paramedics were trained to deliver Streptokinase before taking the patient to the ED. Now, with the right initial care and direct access to pPCI, many patients are finding they are able to leave hospital after a heart attack within days to resume normal living – albeit with a bit more care.

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Ambulance crew assaulted attending call in Cookstown

assaultAn ambulance crew was assaulted and vehicle damaged as they attended a patient in Cookstown in the early hours of Sunday morning.

The crew were preparing the patient for transport to hospital when they were approached by a passer-by who appeared to be intoxicated. He began by verbally abusing the crew and then physically assaulted the Paramedic, pinning him to a wall before knocking him to the ground where he sustained injuries to the head and right hand.

The other member of the crew secured the patient safely in the ambulance and went to assist his colleague. The assailant turned his attention to the second crew member and came at him with a flurry of punches. While trying to avoid this attack, the second crew member also sustained a head injury and damaged his knee in the fall.

The assailant then left the scene and the crew checked on the patient and began reporting the incident to ambulance control. While this was happening the assailant returned, got into the driver’s seat and attempted to drive the vehicle from the scene. However, due to a security device installed in NIAS vehicles, the engine stopped as soon as the handbrake was released. The vehicle continued to roll down the incline without any effort of the intruder to prevent it from so doing and it was only as a result of the quick actions of the paramedic, who re-applied the handbrake, that the vehicle did not career into a building.

When the vehicle came to a halt, with the nearside mirror rubbing along the gable wall, the assailant then started to kick out at the equipment on the dashboard damaging the Mobile Data Terminal (MDT) screen (through which call details are relayed to crews) and the Sat Nav screen.

He again left the vehicle and the crew took the opportunity to drive from the scene to the nearby PSNI station. The assailant was arrested a short time later.

The crew waited at the PSNI station, to where another crew was despatched from Dungannon to complete the original call. The crew members themselves were taken to Antrim Area Hospital and after treatment were discharged and advised, due to the head injuries, not to drive themselves. Both members of staff are, as a result of this totally unprovoked attack, unfit for duty.

While there is a financial cost (yet to be determined) to replacing this equipment, NIAS is more concerned about the physical injury and emotional distress caused to our staff members. The Trust condemns utterly this latest attack on our crews. It is extremely frightening, in the early hours of the morning, to be faced with such naked aggression and it is not something which anyone should be asked to tolerate – especially ambulance crews who dedicate themselves to saving lives and caring for the vulnerable.

We would encourage that all those who assault ambulance crews performing their duties should face custodial sentences, regardless of excuses proffered. Our staff must feel safe when dealing with patients; their focus must be free to ensure they are providing the highest levels of clinical care to those in need.

In 2014/15 NIAS crews were either verbally or physically assaulted on 251 occasions.

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Your Ambulance Service is changing – come and have your say.

The Northern Ireland Ambulance Service would like to invite you to participate in discussion about new models of care which we are implementing. These are called ‘See and Treat’ and ‘Hear and Treat’ whereby appropriate alternatives, to the traditional journey from home to the Emergency Department, are provided depending on a patient’s needs.

Pic32 In this two hour session you will hear from NIAS staff about some of the proposals and why we are making them. We will detail those changes that have already been implemented and we will illustrate how they have impacted positively on those patients who have already experienced them.

Your views are important to us and you will  have an opportunity at the meeting to make proposals of your own for our consideration.

We will also give you information on how to provide feedback as the project develops.

Refreshments will also be provided.

The dates, times and venues of these meetings are detailed below.

Tuesday 23rd June, 2015 10.00am-12.00pm Crescent Arts Centre, 2-4 University Road, Belfast, Antrim BT7 1NH Register https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/ambulance-service-engagement-event-belfast-tickets-17077964652

Thursday 25th June, 2015 2pm-4pm City Hotel Queens Quay, Londonderry/Derry BT48 7AS https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/ambulance-service-engagement-event-londonderry-derry-tickets-17078291630

Please register your intention to attend by clicking on the links above.

To allow us to facilitate any special requirements (eg. access, hearing or visual aid support) to enable you to participate please contact transformationpa@nias.hscni.net or Heather at 02890 400999 or text phone 02890400871.

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