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Defibrillator saves man's life at Walpole Country Club

The decision to install an automated external defibrillator (AED) two years ago at the Walpole Country Club likely saved the life of a club member in November.

Now the club would like to see all capable Walpole residents trained to use the device in the event of cardiac arrest.

When Walpole Country Club member Brian Sarre collapsed on the bowling green in late November, his surrounding club mates sprang into action.

As CPR was performed, bystanders rushed to access a defibrillator that had been installed on the club deck in 2013. It was a move that probably saved Mr Sarre's life.

According to St John Ambulance, the use of a defibrillator on an individual within two to four minutes of cardiac arrest can increase their chances of survival by up to 70 per cent.

Mr Sarre escaped the incident with three broken ribs, and is expected to return to the bowling green after recovering at home.

For club president Wayne Dumbrell, the near-miss highlighted the importance of AED's within the community.

"I think if anything comes out of this, it's the fact that there should be more of these machines everywhere and to get people to use them," he said.

"If someone can just be taught the basics of CPR and to get the defibrillator on, it's going to make all the difference to someone's life."

Mr Dumbrell had taken a refresher first aid course just one month before the incident.

Training a town to respond to cardiac arrest

The small community of Walpole on Western Australia's south coast has a reputation for self-sufficiency.

Surrounded by a dense forest of towering karri and jarrah tress, the population of 566 residents is 66km away from the closest regional hospital in Denmark.

When it comes to medical emergencies, there may be a wait before the local volunteer ambulance service is able to access the incident.

"In Walpole, the ambulance is always at least 10 minutes away," said Bob Laing, a volunteer with St John Ambulance who was present during the cardiac arrest at the Walpole Country Club.

"We have a couple of members close to town and it's totally voluntary.

"So when we get a call we have to get dressed, run into town, get the ambulance sorted and then get out to the event.

"In the event of cardiac arrest, every minute impacts an individual's likelihood of survival.

"Now if it's a cardiac event like Brian, the likelihood of the person surviving is very remote unless people can get to them quickly like they did here."

The Walpole Country Club will play host to a training session on December 8 on the use of the AED.

Mr Dumbrell has encouraged more regional community facilities to invest in the devices.

"Cardiologists in Perth were quite surprised that we had an AED here," he said.

"I sort of look at it the other way — we here in Walpole have always had to look after ourselves pretty much because we are remote.

"We can't just call an ambulance five minutes from down the road. So it's most important that more remote places have these machines."

Uptake of defibrillators, but 'fear factor' still an issue

Sally Simmonds, from the Community First Responder Program at St John Ambulance, said she was heartened to see the uptake of defibrillators across regional Western Australia.

In 2011, five regional locations in Western Australia had the devices installed, according to the St John Ambulance database. Today the number is more than 500.

Ms Simmonds said the next step was to ensure members of the public were not afraid to use them.

"We encourage everybody to have a first aid qualification," she said.

"However, the machines are designed that if somebody has not done a first aid course, when they turn the machine on, it will talk them through every step of the way.

"What we need to do is remove any fear factor. These machines can do no harm. They can only do good. And by people seeing how they work, it can only increase confidence."