The Oliver King Foundation visited Stornoway this week to deliver vital life-saving training and to handover a defibrillator machine to the town’s An Lanntair Arts Centre.
The Foundation, started by Mark King when he lost his young son Oliver to Sudden Arrhythmic Death Syndrome (SADS) in 2011, is campaigning for legislation to make defibrillators compulsory in all public buildings and as commonplace as fire extinguishers.
The machine, which costs £750, was being donated to the arts centre by Scottish Fuels through its Corporate Giving programme.
The unit will be kept by the information desk, for optimum accessibility for visitors to the centre, passers-by and local residents.
The arts centre was chosen as an ideal location for hosting one of these units due to its central location in the community.
Delivering the training on behalf of The Oliver King Foundation was Vic Staunton, who explained to a trainee group on Thursday morning just how vital this piece of equipment is.
“Everyone in this room will die of one thing - sorry to be so blunt, but we die of one thing - cardiac arrest,” declared Vic.
He continued: “Mark and I were at the House of Commons about four weeks ago and we had some statistical evidence given to us by the health service, 60,000 people in the UK had a cardiac arrest last year and of those 60,000 people, 4,000 people were saved, the others (56,000) died.
“But in America based on 60,000 people 44,500 people were saved, and that is a result of training, understanding and defibrillator units.”
He added: “I would argue that defibrillators are the third link in the chain of survival.”
The first link is to call an ambulance, in the UK the average ambulance response time to an emergency call is six to eight minutes.
The second link is cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and Vic went on to describe how people often think that first aid and CPR techniques were sufficient to revive people and could not understand why a defibrillator was necessary.
He asked the group: “Why do we need a defibrillator unit when we can do CPR? People think it’s daft, but it isn’t, CPR will not revive a casualty.
“CPR maintains the oxygen supply to the brain, but it will not revive a person back to life.
“When I give this lecture people say ‘I’ve seen on TV people being revived by CPR’, but that’s fiction, in drama it’s great, but in reality it doesn’t happen.”
He added: “The third link is defibrillation, and it is vital, what has happened to this person who is not breathing? You might think they have had a heart-attack, but heart-attacks don’t happen to unconscious people they happen in the land of the living - you are awake, you are conscious, you will feel a heart-attack.
“The heart is a muscle that never tires, it is a simple four chambered pump, but what is unique about the heart is that each of its cells beats.
“If the cells are beating out of sync (ventricular fibrillation) that is not a pump, so we fit these two anodes on (the pads of the defibrillator) and these control the beats of the heart like the conductor of an orchestra.
“The unit doesn’t shock to start your heart, it shocks to stop it fibrillating and put it back into the rhythm it should be in.”
“The stages towards death are myocardial infarction (heart attack), ventricular fibrillation which moves to ventricular tachycardia and then it flatlines.
“From myocardial to tachycardia it can take three to four minutes, how soon can an ambulance respond? Case dismissed!”
Watch our video for a demonstration of a defibrillator machine, and see next week’s Stornoway Gazette to learn more about the work of The Oliver King Foundation