The Automated External Defibrillator (AED) is an essential first step in treating a victim of Sudden Cardiac Arrest and, in a remote community such as Graffham where an ambulance may not arrive for 15 to 20 minutes, access to such a device by a member of the public may save a life. In towns and larger villages in Sussex, AEDs may be operated by fully trained Community First Responders. The difference in Graffham is that, following a 999 call to the Emergency Services, an untrained friend or passer-by may be invited to fetch the device and use it on the patient while waiting for an ambulance to arrive.
It was recognised for this system to work in an isolated location, the devices would need to be highly visible yet secure, hence the specially-manufactured bright green cabinets with automatic overhead lighting. The cabinets can be opened by entering a unique key-code which is given to the caller by the Emergency Services. Once the cabinet is open, the AED is simple to use providing concise recorded instructions to the operator, as it monitors the patient. Providing the patient is near the telephone, the user will continue to receive backup from the Emergency Services as they operate the AED.
Residents of Graffham have attended information sessions at the Empire Hall organised by Garry Perkins (Responder Operations Manager for SECAMB) in conjunction with Graffham co-ordinators Alison Davidson and Roger Coakes. While Mrs Davidson explained how to open the cabinet in an emergency, Mr Perkins demonstrated the principles of using the defibrillator on Mini-Anne (the dummy) and answered questions from members of the public.
SECAMB hopes many villages in West Sussex will follow Graffham's lead in installing public access AEDs. Mr Perkins stressed that projects must be both organised and financed by local communities themselves.
In Graffham the project was initiated and underwritten by the District Nursing Association. Grants were provided by the Graffham and East Lavington parish councils, the Guillod Trust and the North Chicester County Local Committee Community Initiative Funding Scheme. Also a substantial amount of the funding came from Graffham-based organisations, clubs and societies, as well as generous residents.
Representatives of other communities who would like to organise a similar scheme should contact us and we will provide advice and guidance as well as putting you in contact with the appropriate person within your local Ambulance Service.