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Distance no barrier to life-saving advice

WHEN disaster struck for a family in South Wales, an ‘angel’ from the North was on hand to give life-saving advice.

Debra Thomas was at her mother Terry Thomas’ house in Efail Isaf, Pontypridd, on the evening of August 21 when Terry, 87, who has been battling pancreatic cancer since late 2018, slipped into a diabetic coma.

After phoning an ambulance to assist them, a new system put in place by the Welsh Ambulance Service kicked in and an experienced clinician picked up the call.

Hefin Jones, from Anglesey, a paramedic of 29 years’ experience, is currently seconded on the Clinical Support Desk (CSD) at the 999 control room in Llanfairfechan, North Wales, and took over Debra’s call.

The Clinical Support Desk is run by experienced paramedics, GPs and nurses who provide care advice nationally to the full spectrum of callers in order to improve a patient’s outcome in the minutes before an ambulance arrives.
They can also signpost callers to alternative treatment options.

Debra said: “When Hefin rang I was very frightened as my mother was becoming desperately unwell.

“She’s been diabetic for several years and I’ve seen her have bad hypos before but she’d never been like this.

“He assured me he would not leave me and calmly began to asses my mother’s condition and advise me on how to treat her.”

Hefin said: “I picked up the call and went through our triage system with Debra to ensure correct diagnosis.

“We quickly recognised that her mother needed sugar in her system so I asked if there was anything sweet in the house or a glucose gel.

“Debra managed to find some jam and feed this to her mother which helped improve her condition.

“As her state improved we were able to get some Lucozade into her which stabilized her further.”

A grateful Debra said: “You hear and read about dreadful things like this happening, but you don’t know how it feels until it happens to you.

“I don’t like to think what would have happened without Hefin’s help.

“Thanks to him I still have my mother.

“He really is an angel.”

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Mother and daughter Terry (seated) and Debra Thomas are still together thanks to the help of Hefin Jones who talked Debra through life saving procedures when Terry fell into a diabetic coma.

Hefin said he is enjoying his time on the CSD and can now see pressures from both sides having spent so many years on the road.

He said: “It was a difficult call but we achieved a good result.

“I am grateful for Debra’s words of appreciation and glad to hear that her mother is now as well as can be.”

Speaking of her mother’s recovery, Debra said: “She’s really flooring me and everyone else with her strength.

“She’s had two bouts of sepsis this year, so we’ve been in and out of hospital but she’s as well as can be.”

Hefin has been praised by his colleagues in the Welsh Ambulance Service who paid tribute to him.
Gina Hughes, Senior Clinician at the Clinical Contact Centre in North Wales said : “Hefin did a marvellous job on this call.

“He consistently reassured the caller, providing emotional support whilst all along putting his medical knowledge into practice by asking for respiratory rate and blood sugar level readings.

“He has been a pleasure to work with and mentor over the past few months, supporting us during the pandemic.

“We are very proud of him.”

Explaining the model that the Welsh Ambulance Service work to in more detail, Mike Brady, Clinical Support Desk Manager, said: “We have three emergency medical service Clinical Contact Centres across Wales.

“Each of these has both nurses and paramedics working in them providing additional clinical support, triage, and expertise to patients, emergency medical dispatchers and allocators, and ambulances crews working in the community.

“Some patients may call 999 but not require an emergency ambulance response and can be assessed and cared for over the phone by experienced clinical staff offering advice, treatment options, or sometimes onward referral to an appropriate service.

“These nurses and paramedics also offer interim support and advice to patients who are waiting for an ambulance response, and this example really shows the benefit of having experienced clinicians working alongside other CCC staff to provide the patient with the best possible care throughout their 999 journey.”

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