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Wednesday Relatively Speaking: Michelle McAvoy

By Stephanie Bell

As the Government launches a new strategy to increase survival rates among cardiac patients by training more people in resuscitation skills, we talk to a mother whose baby daughter’s life was saved by those skills and who now — 16 years later — has trained the teenager to save lives.

Name: Michelle McAvoy

Age: 43

Occupation: Nurse

Relationship to Eryn: Mother

I run a Heart Start course through the British Heart Foundation teaching life saving skills and CPR to some Year 10 pupils as part of their bronze Duke of Edinburgh Award and also some year 12 students.

On the day I was due to go home from hospital after giving birth to my youngest child, Eryn, I noticed she had turned blue.

She was just three days old and she'd had a stroke and we were very lucky we were in hospital as she got help immediately. I am an adult-trained nurse and I have always felt such guilt about how helpless I felt that day because Eyrn was so tiny and my baby and I just couldn't help her.

The worst thing is not knowing what to do which is why CPR training is so important. The thing is at least if you can have a go at saving someone's life, you know you tried.

Eryn was in my Heart Start class when she was doing her Duke of Edinburgh award two years ago. My two boys, Conor (20) and Adam (19), also did the course at Regent College and my husband Michael and my parents have also done it.

Eryn was the first, though, to do it – she was really keen to do it and I have to say even though I am her mum, she was really good at it.

She had heard me talking about it so a lot of it was familiar to her and she found it very easy to pick up.

Because of the stroke she had as a baby Eryn has had a complicated medical history. She is partially-sighted and has a weakness in her left side as well as epilepsy, but she doesn't let any of it hold her back.

The course is just two hours long and it gives you the skills to potentially save a life. It is so easy to learn and the children pick it up so quickly and they don't find anything complicated about it.

It's so crucial for people to have these skills and hopefully this government initiative will see people trained and more lives saved."

Name: Eryn McAvoy

Age: 16

Occupation: Student

Relationship to Michelle: Daughter

With mum being a nurse I have seen how important it is to be able to help people.

Patients and their families mum helped when she was nursing, before she started in the school, still remember her and are so appreciative and that made me think about what a good a job she did.

The whole way through school mum was teaching Heart Start and sometimes I sat in the class when I was waiting for her and as I listened I would pick up a few things.

When it was my turn to do it I was slightly hesitant when it came to doing the chest compressions and breaths because I don't have a lot of strength in my left side. I worried that would affect the way I do it.

But I need not have been anxious – I just found a way to do it that worked for me and had the same effect.

One other factor for me was that because I am partially-sighted I couldn't watch the chest rising but, again, I found a way round that.

What my experience shows is that, really, anyone could learn these potentially life-saving skills.

I found it really interesting and you learn so much. I also now know what to do if someone is bleeding or choking.

I volunteer in the Tiny Tots group in my church and I find it really rewarding. It's great getting to know the children at that young pre-school age and seeing their confidence grow.

I want to own my own nursery one day and it will be good to know I have these skills.

If a child came to my nursery with a condition, if something happened I would be able to deal with it.

The moments between something happening and the ambulance arriving is really crucial and it is good to know that you could do something that perhaps could save a life."

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