Sawbridgeworth firefighter Dave Devoil praises ambulance crews after 14-week coronavirus secondment
Firefighter Dave Devoil is full of admiration for his 999 counterparts in the ambulance service.
He should know as he’s just finished 14 weeks on the front line with paramedic crews at the height of the coronavirus crisis.
Dave, 41, volunteered with Sawbridgeworth fire station colleague John Lawrence to help out during the most difficult period in the history of the health service – and after the secondment ended, he reflected on the experience.
They believed they would just be driving the ambulances, but Dave, who as a firefighter is trained in first aid and trauma, said: “We were hands on, day in day out.”
The pair began their secondment to Harlow ambulance station at Wych Elm in April and attended every kind of case, including cardiac arrests and people with Covid-19, particularly during the first month and a half.
For Dave, who lives in Sawbridgeworth, it was a world away from his job when he’s not on call as a firefighter. He can usually be found in a tractor cab on a farm in High Wych, listening to his radio, far from the coronavirus crisis.
His wife Julie, although proud of her husband, was naturally concerned that he would contract the virus and bring it home to her and their eight-year-old son Alfie, so he had a protocol for when he got home which involved changing out of his uniform in the garden and showering.
The fear was real as Dave said paramedics had contracted Covid-19, but there were stringent measures at the ambulance station to keep staff safe.
“They're very underrated in what they do, I take my hat off to them,” he added. “Crews do 12-hour shifts and they don’t stop. There could be between five and nine jobs a shift.”
He said that among the hardest things, he had to attend a patient who had suffered a cardiac arrest and the family were performing CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) when they arrived. It was also difficult to have to tell the family of patients that they could not accompany them to hospital, due to the pandemic. “That was hard for some people to take, but we had to do what we had to do,” said Dave.
Dave admitted he was happy to be back in his tractor cab, but said the welcome from the ambulance crews and staff was amazing and he would not hesitate if he was needed again.
“If they rang me up tomorrow, I’d do it straight away,” he said.