Over 5,000 lives are lost every year in Ireland to a Cardiac arrest, which equates to 13 lives lost each and every single day. For every minute that passes, a person's chances of surviving a sudden cardiac arrest falls by 7-10%. This is what kicked the parish of Colmcille into gear to purchase seven new life-saving defibrillators for the area.
The work started in January of this year upon the discovery that the three defibrillators in the locality were in a poor condition. With several parish members expressing their deep concern, a committee was soon formed.
The committee is comprised of Patricia Hourican, Kevin Reilly, Bronte Fitzmaurice, Cheryl McGauran, Barbara Jones, Michelle Hall, Paul Kennedy as chair and Michael Francis McKeon and Joe Mulligan as treasurers.
“We needed the support from everyone in the community and they were great. They came to us and said whatever we can do we will do. They all realised the seriousness of the situation.” Paul Kennedy explained.
“Rather than asking why are they not working, everyone just got together and said let's get it sorted,” Barbara Jones added.
After making a plan of action, the committee began extensively researching the different defibrillator options available to them. They decided to try and avoid a repeat of what happened to the old units and sourced the best quality ones possible.
Paul explained, “We didn’t want to be in the same position again and we needed a box that would keep the unit warm and dry during the winter.”
The first major hurdle the group had to overcome was the price of each unit. Working out at approximately €1,500 per unit minus the installation fee, they knew they had a mammoth task on their hands.
Paul told the Leader, “We ended up deciding upon seven new defibrillators as when we looked at the map, we decided that we needed to cover each end of the parish. Once we decided on that, we knew our target was going to be €11,000.”
Next on the agenda, was securing funds to enable them to purchase the units and they didn’t have to look too far for help.
Cheryl McGauran said, “The first thing we did was contact the 25-27 groups in the parish to ask them for donations, whatever they could give. We got a very good response to that,”
Paul added, “Every one of them came back to help us out. We knew then that we had some money saved to move forward,”
This community co-operation enabled the group to push forward with their plans and it was decided to apply for a Credit Union loan to bring them closer to their €11,000 target.
Paul said, “Our treasurers came up with the idea of going into the Credit Union in Arva and setting up an account for the group. Once we had an account with money in it, we could go to the Credit Union for a loan.
“Fair dues to the Credit Union, there was no problem and they gave us €9,000 of a loan. My compliments to them as they were very, very helpful,”
Soon the team’s work began to gain momentum and further donations from groups in the locality allowed them to make ground on their target. Bank of Ireland in Arva were the next to help out, hosting a fundraiser coffee morning.
Cheryl explained, “Bank of Ireland in Arva then held a coffee morning. That was a hugely successful morning. It was very generous of them.”
Paul adds, “They raised €300 during the coffee morning and gave us €250 along with that, which we greatly appreciate,”
After raising a considerable amount of money in a short period, the group soon set about securing the defibrillators. They were installed free-of-charge by local electricians Raymond Farrelly and Padraig Mulligan.
Paul told the Leader, “Within a week of applying for the units, we had them and within four days we had four of them installed and connected.”
The team now have secured and installed a total of seven defibrillators, bringing the total in the area to 8 as the Dolmen group allowed them to avail of theirs.
Paul said, “Fostra House also came to us and asked us to purchase one on their behalf. They said they would allow it to be used for the public as well.
“We are very grateful as we got it, but they paid for it and still will allow us to put it on our list.”
The defibrillators are now located at the GAA pitch, Leebeen Park, Purth Church, the community centre, Smears Stores, Castlerosse House, Fostra House and outside Paul's own house. Once the units were secured, the group set about training anyone interested in how to use them. They now have in excess of thirty people trained in the parish.
Michelle Hall said, “We arranged the training through the Irish Heart Foundation (IHF). A group of people from the IHF carried out the training, with five trainers training thirty people.”
“That was on top of some of us who had already done it through work, so we now have 30+ people trained in the area.” Barbara Jones added.
Michelle continued, “There was a great interest in it and there is going to be a follow-on training, Hands for Life by the Irish Heart Foundation. That will take place in September,”
Fundraising efforts are set to be stepped up a gear in the coming weeks. One upcoming fundraiser is a bucket collection outside of Supervalu in Granard, while funds raised as part of this year’s Brian Ború festival will be split between the group and Leebeen Park. Paul may even take to the mic at the Brian Ború festival, as part of Colmcille's got talent.
Paul said, “A lady asked could she do a bucket collection outside Supervalu in Granard for us on Friday 31 from 11-6pm. That is the kind of people we have out here helping out.
“We have also applied for CLAR funding, but we are waiting on a response. That will help us pay off the loan if we get that,”
The main aim of the group now is to maintain the new defibrillators.
Paul stated, “What we have to do now is maintain these and it is going to cost us money to maintain them. We are going to do a churchgate collection and raise funds any way we can as we go along.
“From now on we are also going to leave donation buckets in our local shops,”
For those who wish to help the group reach their fundraising targets, there are a number of ways to donate. One such way is through a gofundme page, which you can find through the Colmcille Defibrillator Group Facebook page. Another alternative is through contacting Paul on 086-2450491.
Barbara Jones said, “It is one of those things, you hope you never need to use one, but it gives you the peace of mind to know that if something does happen, they are there.
“And no matter where in the parish it does happen, you are within 7 minutes of a defibrillator. So they are giving people the best chance of survival.”
The locations are now available on Google maps and Bronte, out of her own pocket, has printed out location cards which can be sourced in the parish.
She said, “The locations are linked to Google maps. If you type in defibrillator into Google maps, you can see all of the different locations.”
Michelle Hall continued, “People can pick up some of these cards in local shops and churches,”
As mentioned, further training will be provided in the coming year and the team have urged as many people as possible to get involved.
“If anyone is interested in taking part in the training courses, please contact us. We can organise the training as soon as possible.” Michelle Hall urged.
“The more people trained the better,” Paul concluded.
PICTURES: Shelley Corcoran