Derbyshire Police Federation

Detective with heart condition campaigns for more defibrillators at police HQ

19 January 2022

A detective who was diagnosed with a serious heart condition following a health scare at work has shared his story after the Federation supported his campaign to get more life-saving defibrillators placed around Derbyshire police buildings. 

Steve Roberts was last year told he has arrhythmogenic cardiomyopathy, a life-changing illness that can cause irregular and sometimes dangerous, heart rhythms. 

He had been at work last March when his health took a turn for the worse. He remembers his vision darkening and becoming blurry, as he slumped forward and describes the feeling as “an unpleasant awful sensation”. 

Having been encouraged to visit his doctor by colleagues who witnessed the ill-health event, Steve was soon given the diagnosis, which resulted in him having to have an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) fitted. The ICD is a small device attached to the heart to monitor heart rhythms and try to correct them should they become abnormal.

Following his experience, Steve set out on a mission to ensure there were enough defibrillators located across Derbyshire Police headquarters, so everyone working on-site has nearby access to one in the event that they need it.

“Knowing what I know, I was only seconds away from collapsing and dying in the office that day. It sounds dramatic, but it’s the truth; statistically, I shouldn’t be here today. The only thing that could have realistically saved me was a defibrillator and there wasn’t one in the office,” said Steve, who has two young children, aged eight and four. 

“My ICD is a mini defibrillator and a few weeks after leaving hospital, it activated three times in one day. It later transpired that it had actually saved my life three times on that day. What an amazing piece of technology?”

Research has revealed that if a defibrillator is used within the first minute of collapsing, the chance of survival can be as high as 90 per cent. However, for every minute that defibrillation is delayed, the chance of survival decreases by up to 10 per cent. Furthermore, if defibrillation is not carried out within 10 minutes, the chance of survival drops to a staggering five per cent.

“When you’re affected by something personally, you look at things from a different angle. What happened to me led me to review the defibrillators we had on-site and, although we have some, we definitely haven’t got the coverage we need,” Steve added.

 Following his campaign, the Police Federation and UNISON agreed to fund an additional 27 defibrillators and replace 25 old ones with newer models, plus buy 10 for road policing vehicles.

“I think it’s a nice message to staff when two staff associations, the Police Federation and UNISON, who are meant to be there to look out for us, have invested in these purchases,” said Steve, who has been in the Force for nearly 20 years.

“There are two sides to me sharing my story,” he explained, “It’s not just about getting more defibrillators but it’s about raising awareness too. I want to try to encourage others to get checked out.

“Men in my experience can make excuses not to visit the doctor. Do not delay seeking medical attention if you are ever in the unfortunate position of feeling something is wrong. Don’t leave it for another day.  

“Sometimes, treatment is better than a cure – and the treatment they’ve given me will hopefully help manage the condition.

Looking to the future, Steve says that the challenges for him are now more psychological than physical. He has been advised not to play sport or run but should keep as active as he can.

“The uncomfortable truth is that there is no cure for the condition but the worse element for me is that it appears this is genetic which means there’s a 50/50 chance that the faulty gene will be inherited by my children. This causes me great worry,” he explains.

“We have been very open with them about the condition and, children being children, they actually took it in their stride and thought Dad having an ICD device fitted was quite cool, although I can’t say I thought the quite the same. Maybe I’m a little closer to being Ironman.

“I’m lucky to have a strong family around me to help pick me up when I’m feeling down, I’m honestly not sure how I would have coped without them.”

After the defibrillators have arrived, training will be provided for staff members. If you are interested in completing the training then you should contact either Steve or operational trainer Gemma Roberts who will put you on a mailing list for when the dates are confirmed. 

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