Swanage man saves a life using a defib

A local man is being recommended for an award after saving the life of a person who had a heart attack while staying at Ulwell Holiday Park in Swanage, Dorset.

The quick action and use of a defibrillator by Kevin Dimarco, who works at the park, meant that the man in his 70s was able to survive and return home from hospital after six weeks of treatment and recuperation.

Ulwell Holiday Park

The medical emergency happened on a bank holiday Monday at one of the local holiday parks

Quick action

The medical emergency occurred on bank holiday Monday on 28th August 2023 when fortunately, Kevin, whose job is to manage the swimming pool and the maintenance of the park, was on site.

Formerly a member of the Swanage Lifeboat crew for 12 years, and a qualified swimming instructor and lifeguard, he’s fully trained in CPR and the use of a defib.

CPR is the basic first aid procedure that can be used to keep someone alive by doing chest compressions to pump blood around the body and rescue breaths to provide oxygen.

A defib is a device that gives a high energy electric shock to the heart of someone who is in cardiac arrest.

Kevin Dimarco at Ulwell Holiday Park

Kevin Dimarco with the defib that he used to save the man’s life

“The defib shocked six times”

Kevin Dimarco, recounting what happened, said:

“I was by the swimming pool when I got a call from reception saying that one of the caravan owners was having a suspected heart attack.

“So I just grabbed the defib from outside the swimming pool and ran up the hill towards the man’s caravan. Within a few minutes I had started CPR and had the defib connected.

“The faster you get the defib connected and turn it on the better, as it talks you through the sequence of what to do next. It analyses the heart rhythm and will only shock the person if it is required.

“This time, the defib shocked six times, which is a lot, however it was good to see that his pulse returned and he started to breathe.”

Ulwell Holiday Park

The receptionist phoned 999 and contacted Kev who was on site that day

Swanage Community First Responder team arrived

The receptionist had also rung 999 and the next to arrive was a member of the voluntary Swanage Community First Responder team who was able to take over the CPR.

Between them they kept the lifesaving treatment going until the South Western Ambulance crew arrived on the bank holiday Monday, about 40 minutes after the initial 999 call.

They then took over and got the man to hospital.

“It’s a good skill to have”

Kevin said:

“Later that day, reception got a call from the hospital to say if it hadn’t been for the actions of the initial first aid, then the man wouldn’t have survived the heart attack.

“I think some people are scared of using a defib but you don’t have to be as experienced as me to work one. It’s honestly very easy to use.

“I’d say that if anyone has the chance to see how one works or go on a first aid course, they should do so. It’s a good skill to have and you never know when it may be useful.”

Ulwell Holiday Park

Kev grabbed the defib and ran up the hill to help the caravan owner who had collapsed

“I admire his dedication and high standards”

Kevin has now been nominated for a Royal Life Saving Society (RLSS) award by Rich Lloyd who is a RLSS national trainer assessor and delivers monthly training sessions for the lifeguards at Ulwell Holiday Park.

Rich said:

“It was tragic that the incident happened but the excellent results are down to Kev’s commitment to first aid and lifesaving skills training.

“He’s such a good guy and I admire his dedication and high standards, not just for himself but for his whole team. He certainly deserves to get official recognition for his quick actions.”

The defibrillator at Ulwell Holiday Park was paid for by the company but has been registered as part of the network of defibs across Swanage and can be used by anyone.

Portable defibrillator at Swanage rotary fete

In addition to the 41 defibs across Purbeck there’s also portable defibs carried by the Swanage Community First Responders and paid for by Swanage and Purbeck Rotary

Another success story

Set up in 2015, the Swanage Community Defibrillator Partnership now manages and fundraises for 41 defibs across Swanage and the surrounding villages. Since the network first started, there’s been 183 occasions that a defib has been used, sadly not all times have been successful.

However the good news is that in addition to the positive outcome at Ulwell Holiday Park, there’s been another success story using the defib kit that Swanage and Purbeck Rotary recently provided for the Swanage Community First Responder team.

In mid September 2023 a holidaymaker collapsed in Swanage and within four minutes the first responder team was able to support the man’s wife who was doing CPR.

The crew also used the defib resulting in the man recovering from his cardiac arrest.

Swanage rotary fete

Maggie Hardy (far left) with the Swanage Community First Responders and the new first aid kit provided by Swanage and Purbeck Rotary, pictured in August 2023

“Defibs do really make a difference”

Maggie Hardy from the Swanage Community Defibrillator Partnership said:

“To hear about these two positive outcomes of successfully using defibs in Swanage and saving lives, is such good news. Defibs do really make a difference.

“Our local community has generously supported our defib partnership from the beginning so it’s fantastic to let people know about these success stories.

“When someone is having a heart attack, the important thing is to ring 999, start CPR and attach a defib to the chest of the patient. Anyone can do this with no danger of doing any harm and you may make a difference and save a life.

“The partnership offers familiarisation sessions and we’re happy to show any groups or individuals how a defib works, so do get in touch!”

Further information

  • To organise a familiarisation session, the Swanage Community Defibrillator Partnership can be contacted via email info@swanagedefib.co.uk or its Facebook page
  • In an emergency, ring 999 and the operator will tell you where the nearest defib is located and how to access it

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