Athlone-based Darren Mulledy.

'When someone's heart stops beating all you have is minutes'

An Athlone-based paramedic is calling for local people to come together to set up a group in the town to oversee the maintenance of defibrillators and the training of people in the use of the lifesaving device.

Darren Mulledy, who lives in Ballymahon, has concerns that the public doesn't know exactly where the defibrillators are located, how many there are in total or whether they are being maintained regularly and ready for use in a cardiac arrest situation.

“If the defibrillator is outdoors they need to be in a heated cabinet. Otherwise, the battery or pad may malfunction.

“There are a good few defibrillators in Athlone, some are inside in clubs and hotels, some are outside. It would be nice to know where exactly they are and how many there are,” says Darren, who is stressing that regular checks need to be made to batteries and pads to ensure they are in working order, and the machine itself needs to be serviced every five years.

“The biggest thing is that there is an Advanced Paramedic living in Athlone and when he is off-duty he attends life-threatening calls or cardiac arrests.

“He has a defibrillator given to him by the Tony Parker Foundation but when he uses a set of pads he has to replace them with money out of his own pocket,” adds Darren, who is available in a similar voluntary capacity in the Ballymahon area where he lives.

Every time pads from a defibrillator are put on a patient it costs this Athlone paramedic over €67 each time from his own funds to replace them.

“No one should be out of pocket for providing voluntary medical cover to their community,” points out Darren, who is part of Ballymahon Defibrillator Group which provides him with a defibrillator to use for off-duty calls and covers the cost of its use and ongoing training in the community.

A voluntary group, it fundraises to collect the funds needed and depends on the goodwill of the public to do so. He believes a similar group needs to be put in place in Athlone.

Due to the “high volume of calls”, the ambulance service is “under severe pressure” and there may be longer waiting periods for a vehicle to get to the scene, according to Darren, so it's essential that everyone knows where the nearest defibrillator is and that it is perfect working order.

“When someone's heart stops beating all you have is a few minutes. Early CPR and access to a defibrillator can save someone's life,” states Darren starkly. And he has first-hand experience of this when he responded to an off-duty call in his own area close to two years ago where a life was saved by a defibrillator.

“It's important to have a group to look after the defibrillators, we have ten in Ballymahon, Forgney and Tang and they're maintained to a high standard and checked regularly,” he adds, saying that Athlone is a big town and it's vital that someone is in charge of what is lifesaving equipment.

He is appealing to the public, businesses or anyone in the community who can come together to form a group, or help to provide financial support so that this Advanced Paramedic can still provide voluntary medical cover when he is off-duty to get in touch, by calling Darren 086 1704394 or messaging the Public Access Defibrillators for Athlone Facebook page.

“It's great to have an Advanced Paramedic willing to do what he's doing in his own time but he shouldn't be out of pocket,” Darren ends.