A HAPPY New Year to all our readers, especially as, thanks to you, the Gazette & Herald’s Pulse Appeal has been able to buy vital life-saving equipment for the communities of Malton and Norton.

With the money raised through your support of our Pulse Appeal, we have provided two basic life-support kits which will be used by volunteer Community First Responders.

Our first team member is now fully trained and ready to help people in a medical emergency while an ambulance crew arrives.

The Pulse Appeal was launched in July following the tragic death of Malton great-grandfather Geoffrey Heward.

Mr Heward died after collapsing in the street, prompting calls for more defibrillators to be available in Malton and Norton.

The Gazette & Herald’s Pulse Appeal was quickly backed by readers who were keen to raise money, and was praised by Ryedale councillors and the area’s GPs.

A cheque for the £2,834 raised has now been handed over to the Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust for the two life-support kits which include oxygen and an automated external defibrillator (AED).

The trust’s community defibrillation officer Neil Marsay said the aim now was to form a voluntary scheme, co-ordinated and supported by the ambulance service, of about 12 people.

Members of the team will provide immediate medical care to members of the community in the vital minutes before an ambulance crew arrives.

Norton and Malton are the only towns in Ryedale that do not have a team of Community First Responders.

“It is all about giving something back to your local community by providing reassurance to someone in the minutes it takes an ambulance to reach them,” Mr Marsay said.

“The role of a Community First Responder is completely flexible and won’t interfere with anyone’s lifestyle – you can still go to work, still go out shopping, still go out during the evening – we will ring to see if you are available to provide that added reassurance while the ambulance is on its way.”

Mr Marsay added that being part of the initiative could be extremely rewarding.

“We know that in many medical emergencies, the first few minutes are critical. If effective treatment can be performed in those minutes, lives can be saved and disability reduced.

“I would encourage anyone interested in helping their local community to take on the role.”

Chris Speedie, from Norton, is the first volunteer to complete his training to become a Community First Responder.

The father of two decided to join the scheme after experiencing a tragedy in his own family.

“My father died of a heart attack and I wanted to do what I could to make sure other people have a chance to carry on with the rest of their lives,” he said.

“I also felt it would build up my own confidence to deal with any medical situation I came across – at home with my family or in the supermarket, for example.”

Mr Speedie said the training had been a little daunting at first but had been very easy to take in.

“It was made very interesting and flexible as well, and took about 18 hours in total,” he added.

“I’m a little bit nervous about going out for the first time but the training has given me the confidence to deal with situations.”

Mr Marsay added that volunteers were given constant support and would never be asked to go to an emergency they were not happy with.

He said: “Everyone feels really nervous when they are first called out but the training soon kicks in and to see the patient’s face light up when they know help is here is a fantastic feeling.

“We would like to thank the readers of the Gazette & Herald for raising the money which has enabled us to buy this equipment. It has helped us overcome a big financial hurdle and ultimately help to save lives.”

Anyone interested in finding out more about becoming a Community First Responder should contact the Network Response Teat at the Yorkshire Ambulance Service on 0845 120 3155 or email them at responders@yas.nhs.uk