THIEVES who stole a defibrillator from Twyford village centre have potentially put lives at risk through their actions.
That is the message from the Community First Responder who has set up a campaign to reinstate the missing device, after thieves stole the life-saving piece of kit last month.
Neil Robertson, who is part of the South Central Ambulance Service (SCAS) Community First Responder programme, was shocked to discover that the defibrillator had been taken from an unlocked unit outside Shine Dental Clinic in Wargrave Road.
The device had not been activated, leading him to believe that it had been taken maliciously and not used to save a life.
Mr Robertson said: “All of the defibrillators are registered to the ambulance service, who are notified if it is activated. They have no record of this which suggests it has been taken for no good reason.
“I just don’t get the mentality of it, it only functions on a person if they are in need of a shock, it won’t work otherwise.
“If this is kids who are looking to mess around, or if someone has taken it to try to sell it on, it won’t work.
“There are very few things that you can do which would impact the safety of the community in such a way.
“If someone collapses in this area while the defibrillator is missing, then their chances of survival are reduced.
“Defibrillators are a key piece of equipment in bridging the gap between collapse and the arrival of the paramedics. When someone is in cardiac arrest there is a ‘golden time’ when they could be saved, but this chance decreases as time goes on.
“The key is to be quick, but if the defibrillator is missing, those chances decrease.”
Mr Robertson said the device was among a number of defibrillators which had been installed around the village over the last year.
He said: “We install them in areas of high footfall, but also in areas where they are most likely to be needed, such as the playing fields.
“It is important that everyone knows where they are because they could potentially save a life. Every defibrillator has a serial number, which is linked back to the ambulance service.
If someone took it to try to sell on, it will be traced.
“If the person who took it is reading this, or someone knows who did, do the right thing and return it. It is of greater value to the community than to any one individual.”
Gordon Storey, from Twyford Together, first discovered that the defibrillator was missing when he walked past and noticed the cabinet was open.
He said: “I was shocked, at first I felt sick because I thought someone had needed to use it, but when I contacted Neil to let him know it was missing, we soon realised that it hadn’t been taken to be used.
“Twyford Together are very supportive of the Community First Responders, they do an incredibly important job and the whole village is behind them.”
That support is so great that the village has come together to fund a replacement unit, having raised more than £1,300 in less than three weeks.
Mr Robertson said: “The response and the support from the community has been incredible. It means that a new unit will be installed shortly, and we will be fitting it in a locked unit.
“It will still be accessible, but you will need to call 999, as you would anyway when someone has collapsed, and the operator will tell you the code to access the defibrillator.
“The British Heart Foundation encourages the devices to be kept in unlocked cabinets, but when you are up against thieves you really need to protect them.”
Claire Page, who has campaigned for the installation of defibrillators in every local school and public place since her daughter Lilly-May died of a cardiac arrest in 2014, said she was ‘sickened’ by the theft.
She said: “For this to happen in Lilly-May’s neighbouring village, it’s sickening.
“Everyone knows that they are there to save lives, who could do such a thing?”
To donate to the fundraising appeal visit www.spacehive.com/twyfordtogether.