Defibrillator locations in Northern Ireland to be mapped
A Co Down woman who suffered a cardiac arrest seven years ago has backed a joint initiative to map the locations of all out-of-hospital defibrillators across Northern Ireland.
The British Heart Foundation (BHF NI), Northern Ireland Ambulance Service (NIAS) and Microsoft want to ensure the life-saving equipment is readily available to the public.
It is part of a wider UK project that will help create a National Defibrillator Network, accessible by 14 ambulance services.
Thousands of defibrillators are located in towns and villages all over the UK.
In Northern Ireland, fewer than 10 out of some 1,400 people who suffer a cardiac arrest outside of a hospital survive.
BHF NI added that public defibrillators are used in less than 3% of cardiac arrests outside hospitals, as people just aren't aware of where they are located.
Lynda Donaldson from Lisburn was saved by passers-by after collapsing outside her restaurant in Saintfield in 2011.
She still vividly remembers her traumatic experience.
"It was January and it was very cold," she said.
"My partner Graham was with me and he had just stepped in front. All of a sudden I felt dizzy.
"I'd no pain or nothing before hand. We'd been out and had lunch and everything was fine and then just as we got to the door, I'd say I had about two seconds of dizziness.
"I went to say to Graham that I didn't feel well but I didn't even get those words out."
Thanks to a school nurse who performed CPR on Ms Donaldson and another man who had a portable defibrillator in his car, she was revived before the emergency services arrived.
Lynda has now become a qualified first aider.
"I really do think that these maps will be beneficial," she said. "As long as people know to look at the map to find out where their local defibrillators are.
"We were just talking with a friend the other day and they were asking where all of the defibrillators are in Lisburn.
"We started to name a few but didn't really know where most were. We knew some of them but it would be really great to have them mapped and for people to know where to find them."
Craig Moore from BHF NI said that when someone suffers from a cardiac arrest, the situation is time-critical.
"Hundreds more lives could be saved if the public were equipped with vital CPR skills, and had access to a defibrillator in the majority of cases," he said.
"Over the last five years we've made great progress in introducing CPR training in more schools. We now need to improve access to the hundreds of public defibrillators across Northern Ireland. This innovative project will give every ambulance service immediate access to the location of defibrillators in their areas, so they can direct bystanders to their nearest life-saving device."
Chief Executive of NIAS Michael Bloomfield described the move as a "positive step".
"As we continue to encourage people to register their AEDs (Automatic External Defibrillator) across Northern Ireland, being part of a wider National Defibrillator Network is a further positive step in helping save lives in our community," he said.
"Directing a bystander to their closest AED while CPR is ongoing in the case of an out of hospital cardiac arrest will help strengthen the chain of survival and ultimately save lives."
The project is set to be worked on by the organisations over the next 12 months.