Mike Bainbridge has been volunteering for us for over two years. However, during the pandemic, Mike stumbled across another volunteering opportunity to help out his local community. Read Mike’s inspiring story of how he started volunteering with us, and his journey in becoming a Community First Responder during the pandemic for our partner South Central Ambulance Service (SCAS).
I have a Police background working with the emergency services, I was in the road transport police for 17 years, responding on a motorbike and I would deal with a lot of road accidents, attending incidents ranging from minor injuries to fatalities. I was based in London and worked with other Helicopter Emergency Medical Services (HEMS). When I retired at the age of 55, I wanted to stay busy.
After retiring, I did some run-of-the-mill stuff like minibus driving for a school, but I was still searching for something more and thought to myself, ‘What can I do?’ Until one day, when I was attending The New Forest Show and I came across Hampshire and Isle of Wight Air Ambulance (HIOWAA). Now I have been with HIOWAA for just over two years, I have done many events, and currently go on van runs to help with collecting donations. I also am a bike ambassador and go to bike events and promote HIOWAA. It is such an important service, especially for bikers like myself, and I just think it’s the best thing to be able to do my bit to keep the helicopter in the sky.
When the first lockdown came in, I was absolutely gutted when we could no longer perform our volunteer roles ‘normally’. As a pretty sociable person, I hated the first two to three months because everything was literally in lockdown and no one could see anyone. After a few months, I was happy to see when online events eventually started to appear. One week in lockdown I did a week-long sponsored dog walk for HIOWAA and raised over a hundred pounds! It was good to be able to still help in any way I could and feel a part of the community, as well as keeping in contact with other volunteers during our virtual coffee catch-ups.
It wasn’t until the end of lockdown, about February or March of this year, that I started thinking about becoming a Community First Responder (CFR). I had actually considered it years ago when I first retired. I saw an article in a local newspaper about launching Community First Responders in the New Forest, and I remember thinking, wow that’s amazing that volunteers are giving basic life support in their local area. But the thought at the time didn’t go any further than that. However, it had always stuck with me, in the back of my mind. Until one day, down my road, I saw an orange and green vehicle and immediately recognised it as a CFR, and it came back to me. It triggered something. With the world shutdown I was feeling very bored, I went home to do some investigating. I visited their website and went through it thinking, ‘I can do that’ and so I filled in an application there and then and within a few weeks I was at their headquarters training. You have to attend a few training weekends, pass a theory and six practical tests. If you pass, they then give you the go ahead to start responding within the five miles of where you live.
I started in the middle of April, the first two or three times you go out with a buddy to learn the routines and then after that you can start responding on your own. It is also nice that, as SCAS is a partner of HIOWAA, I am a part of that community providing critical care. As a CFR you are responding to call-outs of breathing difficulties, abdominal and chest pains. You are providing basic life support for potential heart attacks and strokes, incidents that are time critical; I can arrive within a few minutes and provide this important critical care.
It is great to see things start to come back volunteering wise at HIOWAA too, the van runs have picked up again and us volunteers are being welcomed back and picking up where we left off. I hope to be back and attending bike and other events soon!
When I started as a CFR, I was happy to be able to do something again, I felt like I was wasting away in lockdown. It has given me a new purpose in life, and I can put to use all my experience and skills learnt over the decades. It was daunting at first because you never know what you might be presented with, you could potentially come to someone who has collapsed on the floor and need to administer CPR or use a defibrillator.
It is out of the box and I am enjoying it because you never know what you are going to get when you arrive on scene. There is also a big connection between being both a HIOWAA volunteer and a CFR: it’s all about keeping critical care in the community.
I think HIOWAA is probably the best Charity to be involved with and support because you are essential in keeping a top medical team flying and saving lives. Whenever I am out and about representing HIOWAA or collecting collection pots, people always say how essential the Air Ambulance is and, although they hope they will never need it, they are grateful it is there for them.