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School of heart death teacher Philip Wallace raising funds to buy a defibrillator

By Lisa Smyth

Published 14/10/2016

Tragic loss: Philip Wallace
Tragic loss: Philip Wallace

Colleagues of a primary seven teacher who died from a heart attack are fundraising to buy a defibrillator for the school where he worked.

Philip Wallace was just 43 when he died suddenly at his home in Dungannon in December 2012.

Now, staff and pupils at Maralin Village Primary School in Magheralin, Co Armagh, are hoping to establish a lasting tribute to their former colleague and teacher.

School principal Gillian Napier said: "Philip was an integral part of the school and it was a terrible shock when he died.

"He was so young and so fit. He seemed in such good health and was only 43 at the time.

"It was very traumatic and an awful thing to lose a teacher, as he essentially disappeared, and that was difficult for the children."

The school is hosting a gala dinner dance tomorrow night at Edenmore Country Club, which will include a silent auction with prizes such as boxing gloves signed by Carl Frampton and a weekend in Edinburgh.

Ms Napier continued: "We're confident that we will raise enough money for the defibrillator.

"We feel like it is a fitting tribute to Philip and is also something that could potentially save lives in the school and the community."

Ms Napier said her former colleague was fit and active and played football every Friday evening.

"He took care of himself, he was the type of person who would be eating fruit when everyone else in the staff room was eating chocolate," the principal added.

"He went home on the Friday evening and had a heart attack that evening.

"He was admitted to hospital and had various tests and got a fairly clean bill of health and was allowed home the following Wednesday.

"Two nights later, on the Friday, he had a heart attack at home.

"His wife was with him and she rang an ambulance and I understand they worked on him for a while, but couldn't save him.

"We told the children on the Monday morning after his first heart attack that he was in hospital, but then we were able to tell them he was doing better.

"We actually told them that Philip was looking forward to coming back to school to see them and then he died that weekend.

"It was very hard for everyone, but particularly the children. It was totally out of the blue and I think it shows it can happen to anyone."

Defibrillators are used on people suffering from cardiac arrest, which happens when the heart suddenly stops pumping blood around the body.

They work by administering an electric shock through the chest wall.

The majority of people who experience cardiac arrest outside of a hospital do not survive, as immediate medical attention is required to restart the heart, but defibrillation within three minutes of collapse can increase the chance of survival to over 70%.

Around 1,400 cardiac arrests occur outside hospitals every year in Northern Ireland.

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