Soldier’s fight for life

When the now retired Bolton Wanderers footballer Fabrice Muamba suffered a cardiac arrest during a televised FA Cup match in March last year, the quick response of medical personnel were vital in his recovery and he survived despite his heart having stopped for more than an hour.

MArk Rutherford and Eddie Mahony
Life saver – Operations Warrant Officer Mark Rutherford (left) with Major Eddie Mahony

And as a volunteer Community First Responder in Powys, 46-year-old Mark Rutherford knows only too well how a little amount of cash can help save lives, especially in a rural community like Powys. An Operations Warrant Officer at the Sennybridge Army camp near Brecon, Mark set up the National Lottery-funded First Responder team covering the Brecon area about eighteen months ago. And it was in March last year, the same month that Fabrice Muamba collapsed on the field, that his quick thinking and skills saved the life of a colleague he was playing football with at the army camp:

It was about 1pm on the day we started the game and the Camp Commandant, Major Eddie Mahony, was initially on the sub bench. After a short period of play Ed came on and I went off – we were winning 3-0. The game continued but after a couple of minutes I was alerted by a name being called by the other players. Looking up, I saw Ed on the floor in a serious way having suffered a sudden cardiac arrest. The other soldiers I work with, Andy Wilce and Steve McDonough, immediately started cardio pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) while I went off to collect my First Responder kit from the vehicle.

Using the skills I was taught and the medical equipment supplied, such as oxygen and an automated external defibrillator (AED), we managed to successfully resuscitate and stabilise him in preparation for the ambulance crew arriving.

Thanks to their quick response, Major Mahony was flown in an Air Ambulance to Morrison Hospital in Swansea for further treatment and has since recovered well from his ordeal.

It was a privilege to attend a recent Welsh Ambulance Service award ceremony and to receive a Highly Commended Gail Williams Award for my actions in this incident, but the greater privilege is to be able to make a difference to people’s lives.

Mark receives his award
Mark receives his Gail Williams’ Award

When all the ‘cogs’ come together and the ‘chain of survival’ is implemented, a life is saved. Everyone from the ‘call takers’ to ‘dispatchers’, by-standers providing CPR and First Responders, emergency ambulance staff and those within the NHS all played their part on that day in March.

I decided to become a First Responder in the rural community because I believed we could do something to assist the ambulance service in the pre-hospital environment. First Responding is all about assisting and applying medical procedures prior to the ambulance service arriving on scene. In addition to assisting the service, as volunteers we’re taught life skills which we can be called upon to use at any time…just as I found out during an ordinary game of football.

Listen to an interview with Mark

The Welsh Ambulance Service is currently recruiting Community First Responders in the Brecon, Crickhowell and Ystradgynlais areas. If you feel you can make a difference for your community please visit its website to download a form.

Editor’s note: South Powys Community First Responders received £5,000 from the National Lottery’s Awards for All programme. 

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