Phone box life saver

Long Wittenham’s redundant red telephone box is to be transformed into a home for life saving medical equipment. It’s believed to be the first village in Oxfordshire to go ahead with plans to install a Public Access Defibrillator or PAD in a phone box to help save the lives of heart attack victims.

It will cost more than £2,000 to buy and install. The Parish Council is in talks with the Community Heart Beat Trust, the British Heart Foundation, St John Ambulance and South Oxfordshire District Council to explore grant aid.

Parish Council chairman Tom Bowtell said: “There has been unanimous support for the idea of a PAD in the old phone box in the High Street. Our first thoughts were to site a PAD outside the village hall but we have taken advice from the Heart Beat Trust who told us that using old phone boxes has been successful in villages in other parts of the country.”

The idea for a defibrillator followed a public consultation about what use should be made of the redundant phone box which the council bought from BT for £1. A book exchange and information point was a popular idea and village resident Crispin Evans suggested using the phone box to house a PAD.

He proposed the idea in memory of his son Guy, 17, who died three years ago when he fell from his motorcycle. Three friends went to help but lacked First Aid skills and by the time an ambulance arrived 15 minutes later Guy was dead. The inquest established that Guy was not injured but died of asphyxiation due to a sudden heart arrhythmia.

Mr Evans from Fieldside said: “I very much welcome the council’s decision. Minutes are vital for anyone who suffers a heart attack and a defibrillator can save a life. My family will make a contribution towards the cost and I am also prepared to arrange a village fund raising event.”

The phone box will double up as a home for the PAD and book exchange. It has an electricity supply to charge the defibrillator. The PAD will be available 24 hours-a-day. Anyone who needs to use the machine would dial 999 and the operator would issue a security code to unlock the box containing the PAD. The machine is programmed to give step-by-step instructions to the user and special knowledge would not be necessary.

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