WHAT a difference a year makes. Just 12 months ago the Evening News teamed up with the family of tragic teenage footballer Jamie Skinner to launch the Shockingly Easy campaign, to install life-saving defibrillators in every sports club in Lothian.
No-one knew what to expect during those early months, but the quiet strength of the Skinner family has served as an extraordinary inspiration to the people of Edinburgh. On the anniversary of the campaign launch, the Evening News can reveal that there have been 75 new devices installed since July 2014, with each dot on the map over the page representing the potential to save hundreds of lives.
Money flooded in from readers to pay for the vital kit, while young footballers, older bowls players and enthusiastic community groups came forward to secure their teams’ future.There were generous donations from firms such as Scotmid and the Edinburgh and Lothians Health Foundation, which made it possible for the Jamie Skinner Foundation to support organisations such as Edinburgh South FC, Sighthill Bowling Club and St Bernard’s FC. A host of well-known faces, including The Proclaimers, Commonwealth Games heroes Josh Taylor and Lynsey Sharp and Alistair Darling MP, lent their support to our Christmas Appeal.
In February, city chiefs pledged to spend more than £34,000 equipping every high school with one of the vital machines.
Defibrillators hit the headlines when Chancellor George Osborne announced £1 million of funding for heart-start machines in March – equating to around £100,000 to spend in Scotland. And there has been a major surge in people looking for training or advice on how to get a defibrillator in recent months.
Bryan Finlay, community resuscitation development officer at the Scottish Ambulance Service, said: “Sadly, sometimes only things like the tragedy of Jamie’s death force people to look at doing things differently. Often campaigns have a hard impact at the time but then peter out. I think one of the reasons this project has worked really well is it has never stopped trying, continuing to drip-feed stories and information to keep things going.”
Mr Finlay welcomed the progress made and called for further education into the importance of the heart-start machines. He said: “We know that bystander CPR can increase the chances of survival by 50 per cent, and we know that every minute without defibrillation can reduce the chances of survival by 10 per cent.
“There will need to be a continuous educational message there. It is this small but positive step and I think that’s the way we have to play this in the long term. It is always fantastic to read a good news story about people using defibrillators and it reminds everyone that we need to have access to these vital life-saving machines in the workplace.”
The battle does not stop here. The Jamie Skinner Foundation has around £30,000 in its coffers – which could buy 23 life-saving devices. His family have vowed to fight until every club has a defibrillator and everyone knows how to use one.
His sister Sonia McCraw, chief executive of the Jamie Skinner Foundation, said: “I never thought we would be where we are today, never in a million years. We thought we would buy a couple of defibrillators and that would be it, but the amount of people who have been interested has been huge.
“We want to get to the point where there is proper awareness and everyone has access to a defibrillator. Then there won’t be a need for the charity any more. We want to know we have done our bit in memory of Jamie.”
Frank O’Donnell, managing editor of the Evening News, said: “What Jamie’s family have achieved over the past year has been nothing short of phenomenal. That has only been possible as a result of their vision, hard work and determination, as well as the tremendous response of Evening News readers.
“The most important thing to everyone involved is that countless lives will be saved as a result of these efforts. That is a fitting legacy for Jamie and one that will continue to grow in the coming years.”
The news was welcomed by experts at the British Heart Foundation (BHF), which is fighting to raise awareness of the importance of the chain of survival – which starts from calling 999 and includes delivering CPR and defibrillation.
Judy O’Sullivan, BHF director of services, said: “BHF Scotland’s aim is to create a Nation of Lifesavers and we welcome initiatives, such as the one led by the Evening News, to make public access defibrillators more available.
“But we also want to see more people aware of the need to call 999 immediately when they witness a cardiac arrest, and who are trained to deliver effective CPR promptly.”
Superfit youngster’s hidden cardiac condition
JAMIE Skinner was the picture of health on that cold December day in 2013.
The super-fit youngster excelled on the football pitch, the athletics field and the basketball court. He was making his debut for Tynecastle FC under-14s when he suddenly collapsed at Saughton Sports Centre, caused by hidden cardiac condition.
Despite there being a defibrillator located nearby, it was not used to restart his heart – leaving his family with agonising questions over what more might have been done to help him.
The popular Liberton High School pupil was just 13 when he died, one of 600 apparently fit and healthy young people who die in the UK each year from undiagnosed cardiac conditions.
IN MEMORY OF JAMIE
THE News has joined the family of Jamie Skinner in launching the Shockingly Easy campaign. We hope to ensure there is a life-saving defibrillator in every Lothian sports centre. Here’s how to help:
• Make a donation or fundraise for a defibrillator Cheques payable to The Jamie Skinner Foundation can be sent to Shockingly Easy, The Edinburgh Evening News, Orchard Brae House, 30 Queensferry Road, EH4 2HS.
• Volunteer to host a defibrillator training session at your sports club Contact Sam Grieve at the Scottish Ambulance Service by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
• Apply for funding for a device Email email@example.com for an application form.