Community First Responder take over week: Geoff Dorrie reveals what a day in the life of a volunteer life-saver is like

Geoff Dorries, a responder and group co-ordinator in Norfolk works as a cardiac rehabilitation fitness instructor.

He talks about one Monday when he booked on call after a morning at work.

“For many first responders and indeed many paramedics and ambulance staff, what becomes of their patients after they have delivered them to A&E is not usually known.

“There are of course many exceptions and responders do visit people they have helped when they return home from hospital because they live locally. In my case, as the coordinator of a team of responders, I have a lot more contact with people from a wide area of Norfolk because of my other work as a. Based in the middle of Norfolk I run a series of classes for cardiac patients and others referred by their GPs, for a wide variety of ailments.

“Doing this gives me a unique insight into how people cope with the aftermath of a heart attack or serious illness. Additionally I see and hear how grateful and fortunate these people feel living in Norfolk and having such a superb service provided by professional ambulance staff backed up by volunteer CFRs. They all give testament to the way anxiety and stress levels fall as soon as a responder appears at the door. Quite a lot of them come from other villages where there is a strong team of responders and those who don’t would welcome such an initiative in their own locality.

2pm – I get a call to go to an address that is familiar to me and one we (members of my team) are often called to. This gentleman lives on his own and has a team of carers looking after him. Despite this, his diet is not as healthy as it could be and he often suffers from indigestion, which gives symptoms similar to central chest pain and must always be taken seriously. His blood oxygen levels are low so I give him some oxygen. The ambulance arrives and the crew carry out their usual checks and because of his history of chest pain they take him off to hospital. He is quite a large chap and as he is able to walk it is safer to support him downstairs rather than put him in a chair and carry him. We have been called out to this poor man eight times over the last few months.

3pm –  the phone goes again. This time it is to a 93 year old lady with breathing problems/not responding normally,  who lives fifty yards down the road from my house. Her daughter is quite surprised when I knock on the door just after she has finished talking to the dispatcher. Her blood oxygen levels are very low so I administer oxygen and monitor condition. The rapid response vehicle arrives very quickly and the paramedic asks for help and explains what he is doing all the while. (this is very good for me as it adds to my knowledge and makes me feel much more involved). This lady begins to respond to the excellent care she is being given by the paramedic who decides, that inview of her fragility and with the agreement of her daughter, not to take her to hospital and to ask for the GP to call and see her.

“The rest of the day goes by without further calls and I turn the phone off at about 9pm pm. (I call in to see how she is the next day and she is sitting up having tea and biscuits.)  Sadly, she died two days later.

“Being a responder is enormously satisfying and a privilege, because we are able to help people when they are most vulnerable (even if that help is just holding their hand or talking to their relatives to reassure them). In my case, I have the added bonus that I will help some of them for a long while after their illness in their efforts to regain their health.

“Anyone who reads this and thinks they would like to become part of our organisation will find that they will be joining a really superb team backed up by an equally superb team of professionals and will be able to give something to their local community which is really satisfying.”

For more about Community First Responder take over week which was launched to highlight the wonderful work of our volunteer life-savers and encourage more to join please visit, our Facebook page, Twitter at or look out for the Twitter hash tag #CFRTakeover


About East of England Ambulance Service

Our aim is to be the recognised leader in emergency, urgent and out of hospital care in the East of England....
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