FIRST PERSON: Defibrillator campaigner Phil Hill
Updated 3:25pm Thursday 15th May 2014 in News
Phil Hill, 41, lives with his wife Sarah-Jayne and two children, Charlotte and Lucas, in Newport. He is the man behind a petition for Jack’s Law to make the provision of heart defibrillators in public places compulsory in Wales. He talks to CAIO IWAN.
“I’VE been living in Newport since 1990.
I joined the Severn Rescue Team because I was looking for something that looked good on the CV.
I had always wanted to be a fireman or a paramedic but this work triggered an interest in pre-hospital care.
I then became a student nurse at the Gwent School of Nursing, before the university days.
I did my qualifications quite young – I was the youngest resuscitation officer in the UK at the age of 22.
Before 2000, I set up the Heartstart CPR training programme, which aimed to train 2,000 people in the Newport area on how to do CPR before the year 2000.
We managed to do it in 18 months, which was a great achievement.
Before my son was born in 2007, I founded the Newport City First Responder scheme attached to the Welsh Ambulance Service NHS Trust.
I took a break from this in 2012 so I could concentrate on my studies in university while maintaining my commitment to a part-time NHS post as an advanced nurse practitioner in the Aneurin Bevan University Health Board.
Part-time, I also provide first aid and emergency care training to the public and private sectors.
It’s amazing how few people in the UK are aware of automated external defibrillators (AEDs) and how to use them.
Nearly 20 years ago, during my time as Gwent’s first full time resuscitation training officer, I was asked to do a talk during a national conference on possible future developments on resuscitation.
I presented my findings on public access defibrillators and first responder schemes in the United States.
They seem to be so more knowledgeable over there compared to here.
Along with co-ordinated community CPR training programmes they were achieving much better survival rates from those who collapsed with sudden cardiac arrest in public places – I have since had a great interest on systems that get defibs nearer to the victims so that it can hopefully restart their heart if it has suddenly stopped.
My dissertation at Cardiff University has been on developing a survey to examine current public awareness and attitudes related to CPR and AEDs.
My worst fear is losing my job, losing my profession.
It has taken me to so many places. In 2007, I volunteered to be part of the medical staff for a Star Wars convention.
I had initially volunteered to be a fan there so I could get in for free. But then they told me they didn’t need any more medical staff because St John’s Ambulance staff members were on hand but they told me they were short of security staff.
So they asked me if I wanted to be a bodyguard for the autograph queue – it was a no brainer!
It was bizarre.
I was a bodyguard to all my childhood heroes for three days in London. I even had a pee next to [Luke Skywalker actor] Mark Hamill!
One of my earliest memories is as a five-year-old listening to the first Star Wars film outside the cinema doors in Newport.
I’m such a huge fan.
I was also selected out of thousands of applicants to be in the Olympic Athlete Recovery Team for London 2012.
It was amazing to be next to all these athletes in the main stadium – something I’ll never forget. I’ve also been lucky enough to write a children’s book, something I never thought I would do, but something I really enjoyed doing.
So my job has given me so many different opportunities, and has led me to where I am today, which is battling for a change in legislation for the provision of defibs in public places in Wales.
A sudden explosion of interest seemed to occur following the successful resuscitation of footballer Fabrice Muamba on the pitch [in March 2012].
It seemed that people were suddenly more aware of sudden cardiac arrest and how important early CPR and rapid defibrillation could be, even if it appeared all hope was lost.
How tragic would it be if someone died from a reversible cause in the first few minutes and yet there was a nearby AED locked away or not well signposted?
While on holiday in June last year, I came across such an incident when a woman collapsed in a restaurant.
There was a lot of confusion from the staff over what was going on.
Perhaps because I do not fit with the stereotypical image of a nurse, I had to provide ID from my wallet before they said I was allowed to have the AED.
Fortunately the lady I was performing CPR on responded quickly and later that night I heard from the doctor that she was awake in hospital, although she could not remember anything.
It just shows you the importance of being quick to act.
I was pleased when the petitions committee at the Welsh Government showed an interest in the petition on public access AED provision.
Jack’s Appeal coincidentally occurred around the time that the petitions committee invited myself and two others to attend the Senedd in April to present some oral evidence and answer some questions.
Obviously a senior officer from the Welsh Ambulance Trust was essential to give a service-wide perspective but I was delighted when the Argus put me in touch with the parents of Jack Thomas [who passed away from an underlying heart condition in 2012 aged just 15] and I was able to speak to his mum, June.
I was honoured and slightly choked up when June said she would be willing to come with us.
If we can fulfil this goal I will be very proud and it would definitely be a life achievement.”
*Mr Hill will be at the Whitehead Sports and Social Club in Newport on June 3 as part of a CPR and defibrillator training event.
Members of the public can attend for only £1 by contacting the club on 01633 893227, or email firstname.lastname@example.org before May 30.
The event is scheduled to begin at 7pm.
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