Ester - HART Paramedic

Meet Ester Hooper - part of a group of specially trained paramedics called the Hazard Area Response Team (HART). In her work for the North West Ambulance Service (NWAS) she is trained to enter the dangerous 'inner cordon' of an emergency; out of bounds to many of her colleagues.

Ester said: "To be a HART paramedic, you have to have a head for heights, be comfortable in confined spaces, be able to swim and have good levels of fitness -we're subject to fitness tests every six months.

"Every day is different and we have to be ready for anything. We could be going up scaffolding, into a trench which has collapsed, dealing with a fire or something totally different."

One example of an incident she attended involved her climbing on top of a crane in Liverpool to rescue a dock worker who'd had a fit and fallen unconscious while operating it. She and two other HART paramedics used specialist climbing equipment to reach him, treated his injuries and secured him in a Multi Integrated Bodysplint Stretcher. They then carefully lowered him down to the ground, where three other paramedics were waiting to receive him.

Before they can be deployed, HART paramedics undergo rigorous training at the National Ambulance Resilience Unit.  Ester was required to take a number of intensive courses including two weeks Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) training, which covers the use of breathing apparatus and gas tight suits, three weeks Urban Search and Rescue training, which covers working at height and in confined spaces and a three day Inland Water Operations course, showing her how to deal with swift-moving water. As they regularly work with special operations teams from fire, police and the military, she often takes part in training exercises with these organisations too.

The Inlands Water Operations course came in handy when she went to help patients during the floods in Cockermouth in 2009.

Ester said: "Responding to hazardous incidents can be very dangerous and sometimes overwhelming. In these high-pressure environments, it is often the little things which lift your spirits. For example when we were working during the floods, the Cockermouth community rallied around us, baked cakes and made sure we were well looked after.

"What a lot of people don't realise is that flood water is very dirty and many patients need to be decontaminated after being caught up in it. One man we helped brought his pet budgie along to be decontaminated as well - luckily there was no need as it hadn't been exposed to the water!"

Ester became a HART paramedic because she enjoys a challenge and thrives when she's working in difficult situations and in complex environments.

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