Student-led community defibrillation project set to save lives

Paramedicine student, Sophie Willis, pictured at the Wisemans Ferry Bowling Club. The defibrillation unit is a collaboration between the Club and the Community Defib Project.

Western Sydney University paramedicine student, Sophie Wills, is leading a community effort to increase the survival rate for residents who suffer a cardiac arrest in isolated Wisemans Ferry.

After learning about poor cardiac arrest outcomes in her community, the 21-year-old resident of the town went to her Lecturer, Dr Paul Simpson from the University’s School of Science and Health, with an idea. She has since formed a committee that has received a $35,000 NSW Government My Community Project grant to start a community-based public access defibrillation scheme.

“Due to the unique location of the town, access to emergency medical assistance can be challenging. I was determined to help address the issue through community involvement and education,” said Sophie.

The nearest hospital to Wisemans Ferry is a 40-minute drive, and in addition to the geographical distance, the township is split by the Hawkesbury River with two ferry crossings.

“In the event of a cardiac arrest, each minute that passes without intervention including defibrillation reduces the chance of survival. Ultimately, the quicker that someone in our community gets support, the better their chance of survival,” said Sophie.

“To address this issue, the committee is working with local stakeholders to make private defibrillators accessible to the community and will commence a training and awareness program funded by the grant. New defibrillators may also be purchased and set up in strategic locations as needed.”

Sophie is in the final year of her paramedicine degree and is working at HealthShare NSW and volunteers for the NSW Rural Fire Service. She will continue to lead the steering committee for the project.

“I feel extremely humbled to be supported by my community but also proud of both myself and the committee for this achievement. I was also really amazed that by working with a group of equally passionate people, I was able to turn my idea into a reality.”

The Community Defib Project is a collaboration between Western Sydney University, Wisemans Ferry Forgotten Valley Inc. and the Defib Shop, and aims to improve community access to defibrillation in Wisemans Ferry and surrounding areas.

ENDS

29 October 2019

Ali Sardyga, Senior Media Officer