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Video: Belfast hockey player’s project aims to train 200 young lifesavers

Student Anna (16) to work with 20 clubs on how to perform CPR and use defibrillator

A Belfast student has launched a project which aims to train 200 young people in lifesaving resuscitation techniques.

At the Heart of the Game, started by Pegasus hockey player and Ulster Hockey youth forum member Anna Pim, will work with 20 different hockey clubs on how to accurately perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and give people the confidence to use a defibrillator in a medical emergency.

The importance of these emergency procedures has been highlighted by several high-profile incidents.

Danish footballer Christian Eriksen collapsed during a Euro 2020 match this summer and received life-saving treatment on the pitch in distressing scenes that were broadcast around the world.

And at the weekend, the Newcastle vs Tottenham Premier League game was stopped to allow CPR to be administered to a fan who suffered a suspected cardiac arrest.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Anna, a 16-year-old Methodist College student, explained that when she was 13 a member of her rowing club suffered a cardiac arrest on the River Lagan.

“He received really quick CPR and the skilful treatment he received undoubtedly saved his life,” she said.

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“I don’t know if I would’ve been confident to help him at the time so the campaign is really about raising awareness to 13-year-olds so that they have the confidence to deliver CPR.”

Having worked on the project for 18 months, witnessing what happened to Eriksen showed Anna that heart conditions can affect elite athletes despite the misconception that they only impact older people.

Anna will go out to train her first hockey club next month and her friends have been very supportive.

She added: “The whole aim is that this could eventually save people’s lives and I want to fill the young with confidence to use CPR and defibrillators.

“At the end of this I’d like to roll this out to more sports and help to educate the wider community to ensure that we have these life-saving skills in Northern Ireland.”

George Best Belfast City Airport is funding 20 state-of-the-art automated external defibrillator (AED) trainers for the campaign.

In Northern Ireland there are over 1,400 cardiac arrests reported outside of hospital settings each year with fewer than 10% of victims surviving.

Immediate CPR and a defibrillator usage can massively increase the chances of survival following cardiac arrest, and survival rates are significantly higher in places where more people are trained to perform CPR and have the confidence to take action.

However, Anna said the number of trained individuals here is incredibly small, especially in the younger generation.

The CPR and AED Awareness course, aimed initially at under 13 level and approved and accredited by St John Ambulance, will be delivered to hockey clubs by St John Ambulance Cadet and First Aid level one and two-trained Anna herself.

On completion of the training, a Lifepak CR2 AED trainer will be presented to the St John Ambulance Cadet Division responsible for that club area.

This vital provision will then enable St John Ambulance to educate the masses at those clubs, and indeed in their surrounding communities, generating a ripple effect of knowledge and understanding in the area of CPR and defibrillator usage.

Michelle Hatfield, director of corporate services, spoke of her delight at the airport’s involvement with the campaign. She said: “Educating the next generation and teaching skills that enable young people to unlock their full potential is something we are extremely passionate about as a responsible business, but what better than to also teach our youth something that could one day save a life of a teammate, family member or friend?”

At the Heart of the Game is also championed by gold medal-winning pentathlete, Lady Mary Peters, and Ireland’s most capped international, Dr. Shirley McCay.

As an ambassador to At the Heart of the Game, Lady Mary said: “It is truly wonderful to see how sport can be harnessed as a tool through which to educate young people on important issues such as CPR and defibrillator use.”

Shirley McCay, the current talent coach at Ulster Hockey, added: “The young hockey community of Northern Ireland is going to benefit massively from this campaign.”

At the Heart of the Game will play out over the next nine months, and it is hoped the delivery of CPR and AED Awareness training will lead to future donations from clubs and supporters that could fund further purchases of AED trainers or defibrillators.

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