IT can be like any other day when Victoria Pagani gets a phone call which means she is urgently needed to help save a life. 

The 48-year-old from Old Heath is a member of the Colchester Community First Responders.

It means while many of us switch off when our shifts end Victoria uses her spare time to act as a volunteer.

The qualified group are the first line of response and deal with emergencies in Colchester, Kelvedon and Wivenhoe.

An on-shift volunteer will receive dispatch calls from the East of England Ambulance Service and if they are nearer to a medical emergency, the volunteers will leap into action, getting to the scene before anyone else.

Gazette: Dedicated - Victoria Pagani on the left with colleagues at the Romano Lounge for a fundraising eventDedicated - Victoria Pagani on the left with colleagues at the Romano Lounge for a fundraising event (Image: Colchester Community First Responders)

Once there, it is the role of a community first responder to make important patient observations, comfort them, and provide basic life support before the ambulance crew arrives.

Victoria, who is a care worker, joined the Colchester Community First Responders in April 2022 after attending one of the group’s open evenings.

For Victoria, she loves being of the group which currently has 17 members.

She said: “I love supporting the ambulance service through the group because of the pressures it is under and knowing I’m making a positive impact in the community.

“Working in the group and alongside the ambulance service isn’t for money, it’s about saving lives, helping people, and working to make a difference.”

Throughout her two years of volunteer service, Victoria believes she has attended more than forty patients.

Gazette: Teaching - Colchester responder Daniel Jacobs showing two girls how to give CPRTeaching - Colchester responder Daniel Jacobs showing two girls how to give CPR (Image: Colchester Community First Responders)

The group will normally respond to category one calls which are an immediate risk to life, category two is linked emergency calls, and category three are less urgent.

Category one calls can be cardiac arrests, seizures, diabetic hypos and more.

Some categories two examples include shortness of breath, chest pains, and strokes.

Category three is linked to incidents like falls for example.

No matter the category, every situation is treated with a high standard of expertise from the volunteers.

She said: “If the ambulance is on the way, we can reassure the patient as they wait.

“The work we do is vital in terms of getting to that patient quicker.

“We are trained to save lives.”

Although some situations can be “scary”, the first responders confidently react to them and provide the “vital” observation notes and support to the patients.

Victoria recalled a cardiac arrest she attended.

She said: “I was on scene for 90 minutes, then there was an ambulance crew, and there were nine people in that room seeing to the patient.

“Unfortunately, we couldn’t save her,  however, it was good see all these people working in that room and as I was first, everyone came to me for those vital details.

Gazette: Committed - Some of the Colchester Community First Responders team visiting the Knife Angel statue when it was in ColchesterCommitted - Some of the Colchester Community First Responders team visiting the Knife Angel statue when it was in Colchester (Image: Colchester Community First Responders)

“As a volunteer first responder, I felt incredibly valuable to what was going on and the sooner you get to someone having a cardiac arrest, the higher chance of survival.

“It’s about being there for them, and that’s the job of being a first responder."

Another situation saw Victoria attend alongside a colleague to a patient who was having a diabetic hypo, where she was on the floor, could not speak, and was foaming at the mouth.

The first responders gave the woman glycol gel and within 20 minutes she was back on her feet and able to speak, according to Victoria, it felt “incredible” to help the patient.

She believes if the first responders weren’t there, her blood sugar level could have gone so low she may have gone into a coma.

In March, Victoria attended to a patient who was suffering from chest pains and was having difficulty breathing.

Victoria was able to sit the woman-up, give her oxygen and help improve the situation.

On all shifts, volunteers will carry a lifesaving kit which contains a defibrillator, blood pressure monitors, thermometers, a responder phone, dressing for bleedings, items for resuscitation, and many other pieces of equipment.

The Colchester group has three kits across the city, one in Kelvedon and one in Wivenhoe.

With all the amazing work the group does, it is still a charity and heavily relies on fundraising.

Any single use consumable items are provided by the NHS but everything else must be funded by the volunteer group.

Single use items can include masks, gluco gelm bandages, dressings, and more.

The group also has to pay for its uniform, apart from a polo top which is provided by the NHS.

The charity also has access to a trust car when responding to emergencies.

In an effort to pay for new equipment, training, and general upkeep, the volunteer group is continually organising fundraising events.

The team put on a quiz night at the Romano Lounge in Colchester during the Easter Bank holiday Monday, raising £100.

Gazette: Vital - these items can be found in a first responder kitVital - these items can be found in a first responder kit (Image: Witham First Responders)

There is another quiz at The Prettygate Pub on April 30 and £200 has already been raised through raffle ticket sales.

Money is also being raised through East Heart sessions where the volunteers will go into schools, clubs, and the community to teach basic life saving skills, payment is not required but a donation is encouraged.

Victoria said: “A lot of people don’t know who we are, what we do and that we do this on a volunteer basis.

Gazette: Fundraising - a donation QR for the Colchester Community First RespondersFundraising - a donation QR for the Colchester Community First Responders (Image: Colchester Community First Responders)

“We just need to raise as much money as possibly we can.”

According to Victoria, The Colchester Community First Responders is now looking to raise more funds, expand, and continue to serve the public.

She said: “We want the public to recognise the good work we do and encourage more people to join.

“The more responders we have, the more people can be seen.”

To find out more about the group head to