First aid volunteers are first on the scene – British Red Cross

The Red Cross helps people all around the world. Below is a story how first aid helped when a diabetic teenager collapsed in his remote rural home in their countryside home in Irvinestown, Northern Ireland.

Originally posted on

When a diabetic teenager collapsed in his remote rural home, a Red Cross first aider was able to reach the scene in minutes – thanks to the first responder scheme.

Volunteer Louise Johnston was on hand to respond very soon after 15-year-old Luke Wallace became suddenly unwell at his countryside home in Irvinestown, Northern Ireland.

She was able to reach him so quickly due to the Red Cross’ first responder scheme, where local first aid volunteers work in partnership with the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service (NIAS) to provide fast emergency help.

Under the scheme, volunteers in the Irvinestown area are alerted to category one calls at the same time as the ambulance service. This means that, following an emergency call-out, they can often reach the scene first and provide life-saving help until an ambulance arrives.

Quick response

Looking back on the frightening experience (which happened last month), Sharon Wallace – Luke’s mother – remembered: “Since Luke is diabetic, we were worried that he didn’t have a lot of time. Then while we were waiting for the ambulance, Louise arrived at the door.

“She got here very quickly and did a fantastic job of looking after Luke by checking his blood sugar and his temperature. She also helped reassure the rest of us and keep us calm because we were all panicking! And when the ambulance arrived, Louise explained the situation and handed it over to them.”

The grateful mum added: “Louise did a great job and I am really glad she was there. The first responder scheme was a great help and I’m sure it will help a lot of people.”

Crucial first minutes

The Red Cross first responders all live within five miles of Irvinestown and are trained to use an Automatic External Defibrillator (AED), which can be critical in the first few minutes following a heart attack or collapse.

John Wright, rapid response manager for the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service, said: “Responding to 999 emergencies in a city centre is easy as vehicles can be deployed and reach casualties within a couple of minutes.

“However, in rural and isolated areas such as Irvinestown, it’s much more difficult for ambulances to locate casualties and negotiate their way down narrow country lanes, so average response times are more like ten to twelve minutes.”

He added: “The first response volunteers are very valuable to us and their local communities because they can provide vital emergency first aid while the casualty waits for the ambulance.”

If you’d like to take a Health & Safety Class from the American Red Cross please go to if you’re in the Rock River Region or to find your local Red Cross go to


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