We Are Randox | BBC NI’s The Search features Randox colleague Dale McGall
On Tuesday 23rd January 2019, a new three-part documentary series, The Search, aired on BBC Northern Ireland, featuring Randox’s very own Dale McGall.
By day, Dale is a Regulatory Compliance Officer at Randox making sure that all our products are of the highest quality and comply with all quality regulations before they are shipped all over the world to our customers.
Outside of work, however, Dale takes on a very different role when he volunteers as a Search and Rescue Technician (SarTECH) with the Community Rescue Service organisation in Northern Ireland (part of Lowland Rescue). Community Rescue Service is a team of approximately 130 people with units spread across the country on a 100% voluntary basis.
We caught up with Dale to hear all about his work as a SARTech volunteer;
Congratulations to CRS on the documentary, Dale! Can you tell us a little more about the work of Community Rescue Service and the role you play as a volunteer?
The Association of Lowland Search and Rescue (ALSAR) is an umbrella organisation that enables Search and Rescue teams throughout the UK. It coordinates provision of Lowland SAR services, sets national standards for the teams and develops and shapes Lowland SAR policies.
In Northern Ireland, the team is known as the Community Rescue Service with units and personnel from all parts of the country. Presently there are units in Strabane, Coleraine, Portglenone, Broughshane, Antrim, Belfast, and South Down, amongst others.
Training is a key part of being in CRS. Before being allowed out on a Search, personnel are required to conduct training on map reading, radio communication, first aid, search techniques and water awareness. Over time, people can take part in additional training; from being part of a boat crew and use of kayaks, to water rescue and advanced first aid.
Within CRS, I am a Search and Rescue Technician (SARTech) and have completed several first aid courses.
How long have you been involved with Community Rescue Service?
I have been with CRS since 2017 when I was looking for volunteering opportunities outside of work. I saw some social media posts about the work of the Community Rescue Service and decided to get in touch.
The rest, as they say, is history!
I train weekly with the Antrim, Portglenone and Broughshane units. This training involves reinforcing existing knowledge, familiarisation training, and inviting third party organisations to give us specialist advice.
Can you describe a typical day/operation in the life of a CRS volunteer?
It may sound cliché but no two days are the same with the CRS! As well as the operational role of Search and Rescue, I have also found myself supervising street collections, marshalling for cycling clubs, and giving talks to other organisations.
What would a typical rescue involve?
Our rescues most often involve vulnerable high-risk members of society. Typically, this could be children, elderly people living with dementia, or those with mental health issues.
A call can go out at any time of the day or night and to any part of the country. I’ve been involved in searches that have lasted weeks and have had massive resources invested in them. Just as often though, I’ve had call-outs for which I’ve arrived at the meeting point and then been given the order to stand down as the missing person has been found. In either situation, our focus is locating the missing person as soon as possible and returning them to a place of safety.
It can a very busy lifestyle volunteering with CRS. While I can’t leave during working hours, as soon as I clock out from Randox I am ‘on duty’ with CRS because a call can come in at any time. Being flexible with your evenings, weekends and annual leave is a must as time is of the essence when a person goes missing.
On one occasion, I was involved in an overnight search in County Down, returning home around 09:00. A quick shower, change of clothes and I was back out to another rescue based in North Antrim. Is this compulsory? No, but as an operational SARTech, you are part of a team and there is a strong teamwork ethos where we support and help each other.
Is there anything you would like to share that you think isn’t commonly known about the CRS?
Something I wasn’t overly aware of before joining CRS is how dementia can affect people. People with dementia can regress to a period of their lives many decades ago. One search involved an elderly gentleman with dementia who had gone missing. Approximately thirty SARTechs were deployed across a wide area with a helicopter flying overhead. About an hour later, the call came to stand down as the gentleman had been found. What I found amazing about this particular search was the gentleman, who was not steady on his feet and used a zimmer frame to walk, was found roughly five miles away from his house!
As volunteers, none of us get paid but knowing you helped return a missing person to their loved ones is beyond any form of financial reward.
How does being a SarTECH volunteer compare with working in your day job at Randox?
The two roles are very different but there are a number of transferrable skills which have proved useful! The main one is attention to detail. In my role at Randox as a Regulatory Compliance Officer, I am often auditing performance and processes across the company. Not only do I review new and existing compliance legislation but I am also involved in assisting with the implementation of corrective and preventive actions.
My role as a SarTECH calls for a similar level of attention to detail. You never know where someone could be, or where there may be unknown danger for the missing person or the Search and Rescue team, so it’s important to always be on-your-guard and alert to even the smallest noise or change in environment when out on a rescue mission.
What do you hope The Search will achieve on BBC NI?
I’m hoping the series being aired will raise awareness of some of the challenges that we as a country face. The Search will help to showcase our people, capabilities and our professionalism. The Community Rescue Service is a vital service in Northern Ireland, but is 100% run by volunteers on whom the organisation very much relies.
If anyone would like to find out more information about the work I do with the Community Rescue Service, please visit https://www.communityrescue.org
You can watch The Search on BBC iPlayer here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b0byhv18/the-search-series-1-episode-1
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Behind the doors of Randox, ground breaking scientific research is happening.
From Alzheimer’s disease to gastro-intestinal disorders, bladder cancer to cardiovascular disease, diabetes to kidney injury, our team of R&D scientists work on pioneering research projects in the areas of health that matter most, and ultimately, they save lives.
This week, we spoke to Carol Naughton, R&D Scientist in our Randox Teoranta team in Donegal, who has recently been part of an award-winning film documentary which aims to let people into the minds, the labs and the projects of scientists working on pioneering health research like that which takes place in Randox.
The film project, called ‘Feats of Modest Valour’, focuses on the lives of three individuals with Parkinson’s disease, Brian, Tom and Milena, and on a team of scientists working to find a cure for the condition. Aiming to bridge the gap between scientists and the very people the research will have the most impact on, Carol explains how working with Parkinson’s disease sufferers was the most humbling experience of her life.
Here’s Carol’s story.
The opportunity to be involved with Feats of Modest Valour (FOMV) was a gradual one. It was towards the end of my PhD when my supervisor, Dr. Eilis Dowd was awarded a grant as part of an EU consortium called Horizon 2020, with a new initiative to cure Parkinson’s disease. One of the remits of being in receipt of this grant was a community outreach programme called Science on Screen, and because of this, the Feats of Modest Valour documentary was born. It was commissioned by the Science Foundation Ireland Centre for Research in Medical Devices (CÚRAM) and the Galway UNESCO City of Film and Galway Film Centre.
Several projects were pitched to film makers to connect with the general public, and as a result of our pitch which revolved around the gene-environment interaction and increased susceptibility in Parkinson’s disease, ISHKA Films (Alice McDowell and Mia Mullarkey) production company decided to focus on our work. As part of the Horizon 2020 grant, the brain mattrain project is focussing on the development of a new biomedical device for Parkinson’s disease which will, for the first time, target the underlying cause of Parkinson’s disease rather than purely addressing the motor symptoms.
One of the most appealing aspects of the project was the platform for engaging with the general public. There is so much fascinating research being performed for a host of diseases all over Ireland but yet there sometimes seems to be a disconnect between that and the very people who the research will have the most impact on.
This was something we were very interested in when we hosted a conference in Galway in 2014. For the NECTAR (Network for European CNS Transplantation and Restoration) conference, which brings together a unique audience of clinicians and scientists from all over the world to disseminate their research and results of clinical trials. We wanted to do something different, to broaden the scope of the conference, so we integrated a patient-oriented focus into the programme. The founder of Cure Parkinson’s UK, Tom Isaacs (1968-2017), who was diagnosed with the disease when he was only 27, attended the event and spoke passionately about trying to bridge the gap between clinicians, scientists and patients. Being part of FOMV gave us the opportunity to do this, to merge science and real life.
It helped therefore that I had been spending quite a lot of time with Brian and with people from the Parkinson’s Association of Ireland. It has several branches all over the country so I spent quite a lot of time talking with them, organising charity walks, hosting information days and securing funding for speech and language therapists for them. Considering the wealth of knowledge that you can acquire throughout the course of a PhD, it is really rewarding being able to give something back.
When I look back, easily the best part about FOMV was spending time with people with Parkinson’s disease. It is quite easy to forget the bigger picture, the reason why you set out to do research in the first place. This was an opportunity for me to interact with people who were suffering with Parkinson’s disease and talk with them and explain to them about our research. The platform for relaying scientific research to the general public is definitely an under-utilised one. For the majority of research, people do not know what is going on. When the tailor for the documentary was first shown to people, the most common response you heard back was: “I can’t believe this is happening on our backdoor,” or “That was so easy to follow and to understand,” or “Why don’t more scientists do this to explain their research to us?”
Our documentary was recently submitted to a film festival in New York called the Imagine Science Films (ISF) festival, in collaboration with the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). The select jury included Nobel prize-winning scientist Professor Martin Chalfe, and award-winning science columnist for the New York Times, Professor Carl Zimmer.
We were absolutely delighted when FOMV won The Scientist Award, which is awarded to a film that portrays, accurately and importantly inventively, the life of a scientist. The goal of this award is to encourage more scientists to create films that let people into their minds, into their labs and into their lifestyle. In addition to the top science award, FOMV was also awarded runner up People’s Choice Award. This award is presented to the documentary that receives the most audience votes during the festival.
Being part of Feats of Modest Valour was definitely one of the most humbling experiences I have ever had. I have met so many people who suffer with Parkinson’s disease and in the face of such a relentless disease, they have such incredible resolve to make the most of their lives. We tend to take so much for granted and forget to appreciate the little things. And while that sounds very clichéd, Milena, Brian and Tom are no longer in a position to do that. They live a completely clockwork existence based around the particular time when they take their medication. And even then, their days are more bad than good.
That’s why the title of the documentary ‘Feats of Modest Valour’ is based on a poem called ‘No signs of struggle,’ by an American poet named Robin Morgan, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease;
“You can spot it in the provocation of a button, an arm poking at a sleeve, a balancing act at a night-time curb while negotiating the dark. Feats of such modest valour, who would suspect them to be exercises in an intimate, fierce discipline, a metaphysics of being relentlessly aware.”
Make sure to tune in to RTE One on Sunday 12th of November, when ‘Feats of Modest Valour’ is on at 10.35pm.
For current vacancies in our team, visit careers.randox.com