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Brave cardiac arrest survivors tell their incredible stories to help save lives

"You just don't know how lucky you are"

Published 16/12/2015

Two brave women who survived cardiac arrests have told their incredible personal experiences of the days their lives changed forever.

Lynda Donaldson (55) from Lisburn and Wendy Cunningham (42) from east Belfast are featured in a series of new videos to back a local defibrillator fundraising campaign.

Henderson Group’s Heart of our Community campaign will see the installation of over 300 public-access defibrillators outside Spar, Eurospar and Vivo stores in Northern Ireland.

Defibrillators were invented by Hillsborough-born physician Professor Frank Pantridge in 1965.

In the first video released today (Tuesday) Lynda Donaldson describes how she was walking along the street in Saintfield, when her heart suddenly stopped beating and she suffered a cardiac arrest.

Lynda was saved by a school nurse, Michelle McAvoy and a first aid trainer, Phil Batt, who both just happened to be passing on the road at the time.

Thanks to their early intervention of CPR and the use of a defibrillator - Lynda was revived by the time the first responders had arrived on the scene.

Since her cardiac arrest, Lynda has devoted her free time to learning CPR skills, and now teaches them to groups through the Heart Start Programme with the British Heart Foundation.

Lynda, who doesn’t have a medical background, explains that she and her partner, Graham, “had to do the training and teach other people how to do CPR".

Wendy Cunningham, whose video of her story will be released this week, suffered a cardiac arrest while she was swimming with her club at the Templemore Baths pool.

She had almost decided not to go to swimming on the evening of the September 24 2012, when she suffered her cardiac arrest just as she got out of the water after “a voice told me to get out of the pool”.

Thankfully she did and her fellow club member, friend and nurse along with the trainer at the pool, were able to perform CPR and use a defibrillator over a period of 20 minutes, not giving up until Wendy’s heart started beating again.

Wendy explains how she was in a coma for three days but her experience has done anything but hinder her passion for swimming and for life.

The videos hope to give one final push to the fundraising campaign that has been running for almost three months.

Bronagh Luke from the Henderson Group said: “When we launched our campaign back in October, we received an incredible response from the public who are passionate about getting 24/7 public access defibrillators into their communities.

"Our retailers have been fundraising with their staff and customers and are very close to their targets. This means that in 2016, we will see the installation of hundreds of new, state of the art, public access and potentially life-saving defibrillators in rural and urban areas across Northern Ireland.

“We are so grateful to Lynda and Wendy for trusting us to tell their stories. They are remarkable women, and the courage of those who saved them only goes to show how important it is for the public to learn life-saving CPR skills, and not to be put-off using a defibrillator.

"The videos are part of our information campaign that is running alongside the fundraising, which has been communicating the importance of the public learning CPR and simple life saving skills, as well as what to do should somebody witness an out of hospital cardiac arrest.

“We hope the public watch these videos and are inspired by the experiences shared, and help us to ensure life-saving devices are available for all communities in the country."

To view the rest of the videos this week visit the Spar Facebook Page here

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