West Dorset ICD Support Group

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Minutes of Meetings


West Dorset

Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator

Support Group




Affiliated to the British Heart Foundation



The forty-third meeting of the West Dorset ICD Support Group for ICD patients and carers was held at The Dorford Centre, Dorchester on Thursday, 4th October 2018.


Attendance: 17 members, comprising of Committee members, patients and carers, and an Arrhythmia Specialist Nurse.


Apologies were received from: Brian Mahoney, Terry Hopkins, and Rhona Buchanan.




Group Chair Sharon Bourgucci opened the meeting and thanked everyone for attending, especially those members who were attending for the first time. She then introduced our speaker for the morning, who was Colin Varndell, assisted by his wife Susy. Sharon gave a summary of Colin's background as a well known photographer, writer and presenter on the theme of wildlife.


Presentation:  Colin began the session by outlining his background and telling the group about the work he was involved in concerning hedgehog conservation with the Dorset Mammal Group. He said his presentation would cover facts about hedgehogs, their habits and why they were declining.


Hedgehogs are the only spiny mammal native to the UK. They are nocturnal, and their closest British relative is the shrew. They moult their spines year round. Their favourite environment is woodland, pastures, hedgerows, parkland and gardens. These days, gardens offered the single favourite and most satisfactory environment for a variety of reasons. Fully grown hedgehogs were about 8-10 inches long. Their weight varied across the seasons and with age, but an adult would weigh on average between 530-1500 grams. The upper range would be a too fat hedgehog, which would not be able to curl up completely into a protective ball. An autumn adult weighing 600grams would emerge from hibernation weighing 300 grams, i.e. they would lose half their weight whilst in hibernation. Only hedgehogs and dormice amongst British mammals went into true hibernation.


Their spines were made of Keratin, as is animal fur/human hair, and although the spines are rigid they could be moved by underlying muscles. The spines are hollow, but ridged for strength, and are used for defence. Hedgehogs erect their spines by pulling their skin over their head with a ‘frown' muscle. When they roll up they present an almost continuous spiny exterior, but with an unprotected patch of soft fur underneath on their bellies. They have long legs, big feet, and long claws which they use to scratch for food items. They are quite good climbers. Their main sense is smell, and they can detect by scent items buried up to 1¾in below the surface. Colin showed some pictures of hedgehog droppings, by which the presence of hedgehogs in your garden can be detected. They live for 5-6 years in the wild, and a maximum of 8. They are solitary animals, and have a set route they follow where they have found sources of food. Their diet is composed of earthworms, ground beetles, leather jackets, millipedes, some slugs and snails, ear wigs, caterpillars, wood lice, small mammals, frogs, newts, voles, birds' egg etc. Breeding season is May-June, and both sexes are promiscuous. Litters are 4-5 usually, sometimes more. Only 2-3 from each litter will survive to independence at 7 weeks. They do not breed in their first year, so only those who survive hibernation will breed. They have a habit of self anointing, licking themselves all over. The purpose of this behaviour is not clear, but might be camouflage, medication, or maybe a form of communication. They seem to do it most when they taste something new. In the autumn, they hibernate, covering themselves in a litter of medium sized leaves. Hibernation is not essential to their lives, as hedgehogs in captivity will not hibernate if the temperature does not fall. Once in a state of hibernation their   body temperature falls from 35̊ to 10̊ and their heartbeat falls from 200 to 20 per minute. It will take them 3-4 hours to wake up if disturbed. Hedgehogs who begin hibernation weighing less than 450grams will not survive the winter, but there is no guarantee of survival even for heavier individuals. There are only about 500,000 hedgehogs left in the UK. The reasons for their steep decline in numbers from an estimated 20 million include: intensive agriculture and the use of agrochemicals, less permanent pasture, fewer hedgerows, road kill, fragmented habitat, modern housing estates with fenced-off gardens, slug pellets, decline of ‘waste land', climate change, including warmer temperatures and floods. For hundreds of years hedgehogs were actively persecuted as pests, and only recently have they had some measure of protection. Gamekeepers dislike hedgehogs as they eat game bird eggs, postmen drop elastic bands which are eaten (mistaken for worms), foxes and tawny owls eat young hedgehogs, but badgers are their only native wild predator. However, bites from domestic dogs cause more fatalities than badgers. Of 100 rescue hedgehogs, 25% had dog bite injuries.  


What can we do to help? Let hedgehogs get access to your garden. They will forage for food, and it is not necessary normally to feed them. However, jelly based dog or cat food (not meat in gravy though) or cat dry biscuit food is a good meal for hedgehogs. Make sure there is water available for them to drink. Make a log pile, don't use any slug pellets, don't clear up leaf litter, raise plastic netting 6'' off the ground to so they don't get tangled up in it, and make sure your dog is under control when let out last thing in the evening, either on a lead or wearing a muzzle. Also, make sure there are no hedgehogs in your bonfire before lighting it, preferably only making the bonfire just before lighting it.


Sharon thanked Colin for a most interesting and informative presentation, with wonderful photographs. Those present showed their appreciation with a round of applause.



Part Two


Group Business Matters


July meeting attendance

July meeting attendance

The meeting in July had seen a low attendance, and those present were asked if there might be a reason for this, possibly because of the subject matter (first aid)? However, members said the session had been very useful, and those present would like to have the second part of the presentation on the subject of CPR at a future date. Sharon said she would take this response back to the next committee meeting.  


Auditor or individual to provide oversight of annual accounts


Sharon explained that in line with the constitution we should have our accounts audited, but this would be an expensive matter for a very small group fund, so was there any member who would be willing to undertake an ‘oversight' function prior to the accounts being submitted at the AGM? Peggy Hawkins kindly agreed to undertake this role.


Christmas Meal


 Prior to and at the meeting members expressed their opinions as to a date and venue for the Christmas meal. There was a definite preference for lunchtime on 1st December, and opinions in favour of both suggested venues, the Sun Inn and the Trumpet Major, with the Sun Inn gaining slightly more votes. However, those present said either venue would be acceptable. Alan Denton was asked to finalise the arrangements depending on availability, but if it was to be the Trumpet Major they should be told we expected better service than last year, when considerable delays had been experienced. Alan said he would contact all members when he had firmed up the arrangements to see who would like to attend and give details of the arrangements for confirming attendance/choosing from the menu etc. 


Competition results


A fiendishly tricky quiz supplied by Tony Downs resulted in two prize-winners. Members had brought along and donated a range of quiz prizes, and these would be taken forward to the Christmas raffle/future meetings.


Further meetings

Further meetings for 2018/19 are arranged as follows:


Thursday, 17th January 2019: Presentation by a member of the Pharmacy Team, Dorset County Hospital


Date of next meeting The next meeting will Thursday, 17th January 2019: Presentation by a member of the Pharmacy Team, Dorset County Hospital



AOB There being no further business the meeting concluded.