Resuscitation Council (UK)

Community stories

Small island, big heart

“We may be a small island, but we have a big heart,” says Louise Walker, Head of the Ambulance Training and Community Response Services for the Isle of Wight Ambulance Service (IOWAS). 

Big heart is an understatement from this motivated and driven ambulance service, who had so much heart to give on Restart a Heart day 2017. On this day, charities, ambulance trusts and private training companies across the United Kingdom came together to train young people in lifesaving CPR. These organisations collectively trained over 195,000 young people for Restart a Heart day 2017 - and the IOW Ambulance provided an impressive number from their small island.

The Isle of Wight has a population of just 140,500. It was a logistical challenge for Louise and the IOW Ambulance Training & Community Response Services (ATCoRS) to establish how to reach as much of that population as possible on Restart a Heart day - but a challenge that she and the ATCoRS team rose to. Through direct mail contact, media and social media coverage, they got the word out across the Island about training opportunities on the day. The ATCoRS team worked with their small number Community First Responders to bring CPR training to 428 people this year a new record for the Island!

 They set up external training sites at their local fire service stations for students to visit to ensure they could train the maximum amount of children possible and maximise the impact of their resources, particularly when it came to tutors. They had seven sites, open for seven hours - and managed to train their 428 people using just their four tutors on a station rotation plan! They also had eleven Community/Co- First Responders join them on the day - all of whom were essential in ensuring the day went to plan. The sessions varied in size, but in one session 90 children attended and learned CPR together! 

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A highlight of the day was the reunion of cardiac arrest survivor, Michael Austin-Smith, with the Community First Responder, Jeff Butt, who was first on scene and helped save his life back in June 2015.  

It’s a big result for the Isle of Wight and part of their continued drive to increase awareness for bystander CPR and defibrillators. In the past five years they have gone from a just double figure number of defibrillators to now over 300 defibrillators located across the Island – and on average half of which are deployed each month. 

There won’t be any resting on laurels, however. This passionate ambulance service are already planning next year’s Restart a Heart day - and they expect to watch the number of people trained in CPR grow and grow each year to increase survival statistics on their beautiful Island - giving them a lot of heart indeed. 

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