Kilmore woman responds to needs of community
When Niamh Lawton attended a meeting discussing the creation of a First Responder Group in Wexford Town last month she came away disappointed. Not because of the meeting itself, nor because of the public response. No, what upset Niamh was the news that the service would only be available to those living within a 5km radius of Wexford Town, effectively ruling out those living in her village, Bridgetown, and its surrounding areas.
But rather than dwell on the news, Niamh chose to do something about it. Aware that her local councillor, Ger Carthy, was a trained paramedic, she sent him a tentative text, enquiring about the possibility of setting up a similar service in the Kilmore region. That was just a few weeks ago. Now Niamh is the newly-appointed chairperson of the Kilmore First Responders Group, a voluntary organisation which will serve the entire Kilmore region and provide vital life-saving support to those in rural areas.
'It's important for the area to have something like this, you're talking a minimum of 30 minutes for an ambulance to arrive here,' Niamh said. 'You often hear of them taking 40 minutes or more to come from Waterford or even Kilkenny. So if this first responder service can even save one life it will have been worth it.'
However, before the group can begin working in the area, its members must undergo rigorous training. 'We hope to go live within five weeks,' said Councillor Carthy, 'we just need to get the accreditation finalised and the training completed.'
That training will see volunteers learn how to provide assistance and support at the scene of an emergency, techniques which could save the lives of those who would previously have had to endure lengthy waiting times for ambulance services.
Supported by the National Ambulance Service (NAS) this first responder group is just one of many throughout the country, each run on a non-profit basis and exclusively by volunteers. 'There's been a very strong appetite for this venture,' said Cllr Carthy, 'we had our first meeting on March 12, and another on March 19 which was attended by Fine Gael Councillors Jim Moore and Frank Staples and Sinn Féin Councillor Mick Roche.'
With vital funding having already been provided by local politicians, Niamh is hopeful that the group will soon be making a difference within her local community: 'We've had a great response so far, both from the public and some local councillors, who have provided us with funding. People are really egging us on to do well.'
Stating she's not 'usually into doing this kind of thing', the mother of three has always had an interest in first aid but admits she's been otherwise occupied in recent years. 'I did a first aid course seven years ago but then I was busy bringing up the kids. But now that the youngest has started school I was able to throw myself into this. I've been getting by on enthusiasm alone so far,' she said.