Twenty-one-year-old student behind potentially life-saving Wisemans Ferry defibrillation 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.

LIFE SAVING: Wisemans Ferry resident Sophie Wills with an automated external defibrillator (AED) installed outside Wisemans Ferry Bowling Club in collaboration between the community defibrillator project and the club. Picture: Supplied

LIFE SAVING: Wisemans Ferry resident Sophie Wills with an automated external defibrillator (AED) installed outside Wisemans Ferry Bowling Club in collaboration between the community defibrillator project and the club. Picture: Supplied

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.

Ms Wills said the funding will not only pay for defibrillators - including hardware, cabinets and signage - but will also cover training and resources.

"Another important part is training and creating resources so there's practical applications," she told the Gazette.

"[This includes] signage, magnets, cards for people's wallets to identify where their nearest defibrillator is, and it will also ensure practical monitoring of the program, the research to ensure what we're doing is a practical program and not a bandaid solution."

Ms Wills said the funding will be enough for up to 13 defibrillators in Wisemans Ferry and surrounds.

"There are currently existing private defibrillator units in the area, so the exact number [we purchase] will depend on what we need to cover the area," she said.

The team is looking at having defibrillator units available to ensure everyone living in the area is no longer than five minutes drive to live-saving help.

"Locations are still being defined but we're working with the RMS to make sure there's one on the ferry that can be community accessible," she said.

They team already launched its first unit on the outside wall of the Wisemans Ferry Bowling Club, accessible 24 hours a day.

Other locations the team are looking at include the Settlers Arms Inn, and also along Singleton Road, River Road, and Old Northern Road.

With the nearest hospital - Hawkesbury District Health Service - around 45 minutes drive away, Ms Wills said she wanted to "bridge the gap" that existed with emergency healthcare in Wisemans Ferry.

"Being interested in health and emergency services and being a volunteer for RFS I've been acutely aware of the geographical disadvantage of living in Wisemans Ferry," she said.

"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."

Ms Wills is in the final year of her paramedicine degree and is working at HealthShare NSW. 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.

Comments