The Big Interview: ‘LIVES reminds me what is important’

Sarah Bailey, LIVES first responder.
Sarah Bailey, LIVES first responder.
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Most of us have busy lives, juggling work and family commitments, but Sarah Bailey manages to pack rather a lot into hers.

She works as a professional photographer, she’s studying an Open University course and also finds time to help save lives as a volunteer with the charity LIVES, which provides responders to attend incidents to assist the ambulance service.

Sarah’s voluntary work is clearly incredibly rewarding and she is keen to convince others in the Grantham area to get involved and join her in making a difference in the community.

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

I’m a photographer by trade. I’m also an Open University student, a hobbyist motorbiker, teach people to jump out of planes and I’m learning to play squash, badly, when time allows. I’m from an Irish family, grew up in the South East and moved up here nine years ago. I’m now happily ensconced in the middle of Grantham with my other half and two hairy dogs.

How did you get involved with the LIVES charity?

I’ve always done bits and pieces of voluntary work. I know I’m pretty good with dealing with high pressure situations and don’t get too phased by things that can go wrong with our bodies so LIVES seemed like a sensible charity to get involved with. I had meant to sign up a while before I actually did but stuff always seemed to get in the way. Last summer though, someone fairly close to us had a rather major heart incident and only survived because of early defibrillation (delivery of a controlled shock to attempt to correct a patient’s heart rhythm). That was the kick I needed to get on with it I guess.

What sort of work do you get involved with as a volunteer with the charity and what geographical area does the work cover?

Personally I’m a First Responder and our group covers the Grantham area but LIVES have responder groups throughout the whole of Lincolnshire. We get called to any ‘category A’ emergencies that we are trained to help with. When someone makes a ‘999’ call an ambulance is dispatched as normal. At the same time they contact the local first responder on duty as we can often get to the scene first because we’re usually closer. We carry a variety of equipment including oxygen and a defibrillator, are trained to provide pre-hospital care and can help in various ways depending on the emergency.

What do you enjoy about the work?

Lots. I enjoy the challenge, every call is different. I like learning new stuff too. I’ve learnt heaps through our training and through working alongside the ambulance crews and paramedics. As cheesy as it might sound, it’s also really nice to feel like you’re giving something useful to the local community in some way, especially when you see that you’ve made a difference to someone’s health and the whole family’s happiness.

Can you recount any memorable experiences while working with LIVES, without giving any confidential information?

I remember quite a few of the calls I have been on quite vividly. Without breaching patient confidentiality it’s difficult to go into too much detail. One of the most memorable moments though was the first time someone said thank you. I had arrived to the patient first and had given oxygen therapy as they were having trouble breathing. The crew arrived and decided to take the patient to hospital. As they were on their way out to the ambulance with the crew they made sure they called me back to say thank you, even though they were clearly very poorly. They were clearly so genuinely appreciative and it was great to see that what we did had made a real difference for this person.

Has the work changed your perception on life, given the serious nature of some of the incidents you must get involved in?

If I’m honest, not really! Not yet anyway. I lost my husband in an accident some years ago now and amongst a whole load of other stuff, it taught me to really value the truly important things in life like your health and happiness, as opposed to the frivolous mundane stuff that we can get caught up in on a daily basis. Volunteering for LIVES and working with people in this way serves as a reminder to me of what’s important though, definitely.

What kind of training do volunteers have to undertake to work with LIVES?

LIVES has a training and development programme for all volunteer responders. First Responders operate on four levels. You start with a Level 1 foundation day training which gives you the background knowledge required to operate as a First Responder. You then complete additional training and assessment in basic life support and a range of acute medical emergencies to qualify at Level 2 and start responding to emergencies within the community. There is then the opportunity to continue your training to Levels 3 and 4 if you would like to. Each deals with additional emergencies.

What sort of people is the charity looking for to carry out its work?

LIVES has a team of First Responders in Grantham and would always welcome anyone that is keen to get involved in this way. There are some basic requirements, including being over 18, having a full driving licence and being able to carry the 20kg of equipment. Being able to remain calm under pressure and work as part of a team are also helpful attributes. Full training is given and you will need to demonstrate your competence at the end of it. Responding might not be for everybody though and there are a whole heap of other ways that people can help the charity, such as helping us to raise funds for equipment. We’d like to do some more active fund-raising in Grantham and would really appreciate help with this, be it holding a collection bucket or hosting a fund-raising event.

What would you say in two sentences to attract others to volunteer?

Volunteering is a win-win, it enables you to give something to your local community whilst also gaining something for yourself like new skills, knowledge, experience and meeting new people. Even a small donation of your time, or money if you’re a busy person, could make a huge difference to someone’s life.