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10 years of cooperation helps give Scott a second chance at life

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25 Aug 2010
Scott Moorhen didn’t expect to have a cardiac arrest nor did he expect that firefighters would be supporting ambulance paramedics at his life-threatening medical emergency.

The Ivanhoe father’s amazing recovery can be attributed to the quick actions of bystanders and a 10-year partnership between the Metropolitan Fire Brigade and Ambulance Victoria.

Since 2000, MFB crews have been dispatched at the same time as ambulances to cardiac arrests and non-breathing patients.

Thanks to specialist training provided by Monash University, all firefighters are able to provide basic life support, give CPR and use defibrillators carried on board all fire trucks. The firefighters are supported in-field by Ambulance Victoria.

Mr Moorhen, 43, was clinically dead – he was not breathing and his heart had stopped beating – when bystanders Sharon Patterson and Andre Roberts commenced CPR and 000 was called.

Firefighters continued to give Mr Moorhen chest compressions as paramedics used a defibrillator to ‘shock’ his heart back into rhythm and they administered life-saving drugs. This care continued in hospital and Mr Moorhen has now returned to work.

In the past three years, the MFB has been dispatched to 7,920 Emergency Medical Response (EMR) calls. In some areas of Melbourne, firefighters are attending more EMR calls than calls to building fires.

Despite the growth of the EMR component of MFB work, it maintains a low profile and the arrival of a fire truck at life-threatening medical emergencies is sometimes unexpected.

MFB firefighters are dispatched at the same time as ambulance paramedics to medical emergencies where a person is in suspected cardiac arrest or has stopped breathing. If a fire truck arrives first, the crew immediately initiates medical assistance and continues until ambulance paramedics arrive to take over. MFB firefighters also provide assistance to paramedics, working as a team in aiming for the best possible outcome for patients.

“We’ve helped to save many lives through this service, but it is still a surprise for a lot of people when the fire truck arrives and firefighters offer to provide a service,” said MFB EMR Commander Colin Bibby. “At first that might sound amusing, but the time we lose explaining that we’re here to help could be the difference between life and death.”

In metropolitan Melbourne 60 per cent of cardiac arrest patients presenting with a shockable heart rhythm survive to hospital and almost one in three people get to go home.

Paramedic Andy Watson said Ambulance Victoria’s world-renowned success in improving outcomes for cardiac arrest patients was thanks to a variety of factors including its partnership with the MFB.

“If someone is not breathing or is in cardiac arrest, a quick response is vital. The MFB EMR program contributes to that quick response,” said Mr Watson, AV’s EMR coordinator.

“Cardiac arrest survivability diminishes by 10 per cent for every minute that defibrillation is delayed. It is critical that 000 is called immediately someone is suspected of being in cardiac arrest. CPR provided by people at the scene before emergency services arrive can also dramatically improve the patient’s chance of survival.”

The survival of Mr Moorhen, who collapsed while helping train his young son’s football team in June, is testament to the ‘chain of survival’ and the joint response of firefighters and paramedics.

The chain of survival – a proven formula for giving the 30,000 Australians who suffer cardiac arrest each year the best chance of life – requires an early call to 000, early CPR, early defibrillation and early access to advanced cardiac life support..

When Mr Moorhen collapsed, bystanders recognised the cardiac arrest and 000 was called – the first link in the chain. Next, they began early CPR – the second link – and when the firefighters and paramedics arrived they provided the third link, which is early defibrillation.

Early advanced care is the final link and intensive care paramedics provided intravenous fluids and medication and he was taken to hospital where medical staff continued that care.

The partnership between AV and the MFB has played a significant role in helping people survive cardiac arrest.

For more information contact:

MFB Media (03) 9665 4699

Ambulance Victoria Media (03) 9840 3513

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