Truly life saving combination
by NEIL GREENLEES
GUESTS attending the recent memorial service for Professor Frank Pantridge at Lagan Valley Island were able to view two pieces of equipment which together formed a life saving combination for many people.
Firstly, there was Karrier Ambulance Fleet No. 331. This type of ambulance was a familiar sight on the streets of Belfast during the 1960's and 70's as it was the standard accident and emergency ambulance in the city.
However, number 331 was particularly special as it was the world's first purpose built cardiac ambulance which put into practice the Professor's pioneering concept of bringing emergency coronary care to patients.
Also on display was the original portable defibrillator invented by the Professor which meant sudden cardiac arrest could be treated immediately the ambulance arrived at the scene of a heart attack.
Former ambulance personnel Mr. Robert Warwick and Mr. Tony Bell were on hand to explain the workings of the equipment.
Mr. Bell explained he spent 28 years based at the Belfast Central Depot in Broadway and saw for himself the difference to patient care made by the introduction of the ambulance and the portable defibrillator.
"It allowed us to take care to the patients," he explained. "Before this the ambulances were used to bring patients to the hospital before they received any treatment.
"But the introduction of this ambulance and the defibrillator allowed the patient to receive treatment as soon as we arrived."
Mr. Bell also said he could not describe any one call out was more memorable than another.
"It was also great we were all involved in the treatment of the patient as a team."
Mr. Bell and Mr. Warwick borrowed the Pantridge Portable Defibrillator from The Royal Victoria Hospital especially to exhibit in the ambulance.
The original Karrier ambulance was purchased by a generous donation from the Belfast Co-operative Society's Women's Guild.
When withdrawn from service it became a works ambulance at Ballylumford Power Station and was finished in the blue colour scheme of Northern Ireland Electricity.
After restoration in it's original Northern Ireland Hospital Authority's livery it took part in several ambulance rallies in Great Britain and won an award for it's condition and for being the farthest travelled ambulance.
It is owned by the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service but
is kept and maintained by the Retired Ambulance Association
and these men, many of whom drove the ambulance in its early
days have been dedicated in maintaining it in its original