Schools set to get 45 defibrillators at end of World Police and Fire Games
Life-saving defibrillators being used in the World Police and Fire Games are to be donated to schools across Northern Ireland after the closing ceremony.
The games – which officially get under way in Belfast on Thursday – will see athletes from police, prison and fire services from around the globe competing in a range of 56 sports from rowing to beach volleyball.
A defibrillator will be located at each of the game's venues which will open with a grand ceremony at a specially-constructed arena at the King's Hall complex.
Belfast-based HeartSine Technologies, which has pioneered automated external defibrillators for the workplace and public access, is to donate the 45 defibrillators being used after the games.
The donation is particularly poignant after the tragic death of six-year-old Harry Starret (pictured) in Armagh.
The young boy was found dead on his grandfather's farm and a postmortem showed he had an underlying heart defect, highlighting the importance of heart screening and life-saving equipment.
Nine-year-old Belfast schoolboy Eoghan McConville underwent open heart surgery at the age of four and still suffers from a form of the disease – cardiomyopathy.
Together with mum Martina, and in partnership with St Colman's Primary school in Lambeg, they have been championing a Defibs4Kids campaign to get the vital machines into schools.
Martina last night described the donation as "a tremendous idea and a fabulous initiative".
She said: "I just hope that they conduct the necessary research and consult with people like myself and schools like St Colman's to ensure that the defibrillators are placed in appropriate schools where there is a recognised need."
John Tully, chief executive of the World Police and Fire Games, said: "Whilst we hope that none of the defibrillators will be used during the games we are truly indebted to HeartSine for making such a generous donation.
"Even more significant is the gift of the devices to 45 schools after the event ensuring a meaningful and lasting legacy for years following the games."
The mobile defibrillators are used to 'shock' a victim of a cardiac arrest back to the normal rhythm. The amazing technology can increase survival rates to over 70%, they fall to less than 5% with just CPR alone.
The dangers of undetected heart conditions made the headlines last year when Bolton footballer Fabrice Muamba suffered a career-ending cardiac arrest.
The athlete was treated by a HeartSine defibrillator until paramedics arrived and was "effectively dead" for 78 minutes.
The World Police and Fire Games, which are expected to attract more than 7,000 athletes, will use the technology which does not have to be restricted to medical professionals.