On Friday 17th October, in this very village of Alfriston a special award ceremony took place, which I felt very honoured to be invited to. Many of you may or may not be aware but Alfriston, and the surrounding Cuckmere Valley are privileged to have a dedicated team of volunteers known as the 'Alfriston and Cuckmere Heartstart Voluntary Community First Responders', who in conjunction with South East Coast Ambulance Service; was set up to train a team of Volunteers to use Defibrillators and to attend certain types of 999 calls once dispatched by Ambulance Control to aid patients before the Ambulance arrival.
Founded in January 2006, the Heartstart team have saved many lives by providing first response support for a variety of incidents, including: Cardiac Arrest, unconscious patients, chest pains, breathing difficulties, patients who are fitting, medical collapses and minor trauma, and in 2013 alone they attended 318 call outs! All activities are financed by voluntary donations and their own fundraising efforts.
In June of this year the Heartstart responders where given the very special and exciting news that they had been chosen to be awarded, ‘The Queen's Award for Voluntary Service’. This award is the highest that can be given to local volunteer groups across the UK to recognise outstanding work done in their own communities, and was created in 2002 to celebrate the anniversary of the Queen's Coronation. It is the equivalent of an MBE for volunteer groups.
On Friday 17th October around 50 guests who support the charity were invited to attend the evening ceremony that took place at The Star Inn, Alfriston. After the formal introductions were made the Heartstart responders were awarded a certificate signed by The Queen and a commemorative piece of crystal, both of which were presented on behalf of The Queen by the Lord-Lieutenant of East Sussex Mr Peter Field.
Heartstart responder, team secretary and fundraiser Jen Dumelow said of the evening, “We are so delighted and very proud to have welcomed HM Lord-Lieutenant of East Sussex, Peter Field and other distinguished guests for this extremely proud moment for our team of responders and supporters, it is very special to feel that we have been acknowledged by HRH The Queen.”
A truly wonderful and humbling evening listening to accounts of how the team of 8 responders, and their supporters donate their own free time to help save lives in this beautiful area. One such account I remember being told was of a young fit man with no previous medical history mountain biking over the South Downs with two friends, who suffered a cardiac arrest, his location on the downs was difficult to get to, so a Heartstart first responder in their faithful 4x4 was dispatched to administer live saving treatment.
The young man went on to fully recover from his cardiac arrest thanks to this special team of volunteers.
You can find more information on fundraising, and the Heartstart team on the Alfriston & Cuckmere Valley Heartstart website www.alfristonheartstart.org.uk