Leisure centre staff hail defibrillator campaign

Paul Murray, left, and Colin Kerr. Picture: Lesley Martin
Paul Murray, left, and Colin Kerr. Picture: Lesley Martin
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HEROIC leisure centre staff have told how they revived a collapsed gym user suffering cardiac arrest by using life-saving defibrilators.

The near-miss story of first aid heroism highlights the vital role the devices can play in life or death scenarios.

Full-time carer Colin Kerr believes he is only alive today thanks to quick-thinking staff at Gracemount Leisure Centre who called for a defibrillator when his heart stopped in September last year.

Eyewitnesses described how he was “turning grey” after he collapsed 50 minutes into a workout.

“I don’t smoke, I don’t drink, I eat healthily and exercise regularly,” said the 49-year-old. “I had no known health issues but last year, without warning, my heart stopped.”

Staff member Ed Bethune, who performed lifesaving procedures with colleague Paul Murray, described the anxious wait for Mr Kerr’s pulse to restart after using the defibrilator.

“We started back with CPR as directed by the machine, which I did for another two minutes, then the machine reassessed the casualty,” he said.

“It said not to give a shock, and just continue with CPR, so we thought: ‘Something’s working here’.

“I did four more compressions and he let out a huge breath. It was a huge relief. I’m feeling fairly emotional just thinking about it.”

Mr Kerr said: “I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for the excellent training and care of Edinburgh Leisure staff. It has taken a while to come to terms with what happened.”

Mr Kerr now appreciates the simple things in life even more, knowing that he might never have been around to experience them. “I have since turned 50 and I did reflect on how easily I could have not made the birthday,” he said. “Now I take each day as a bonus. We went to New York, somewhere I had always wanted to go, to celebrate my turning 50 and it was fantastic – I might never have had that experience.”

Mr Kerr’s life-savers have since been recognised with an Outstanding Achievement Award for their actions.

In another feat of heroism, pool manager Douglas Harvey described how he rushed to the aid of a pedestrian who collapsed outside Newbattle Pool in Midlothian.

Mr Harvey remembers the call coming through on the radio asking him to bring the pool’s defibrillator to the scene.

“It was the first time using the defib in a live situation,” he said.

Thankfully, a 15-year-old bystander who was working on his paper round was already delivering CPR. “We asked him to continue as we put the defib on the gentleman, and from there the defib took over and we went into training mode,” said Mr Harvey.

“We just did our jobs that we trained for. We shocked the gentleman, and detected a pulse, so we continued CPR. The paramedics arrived, and while putting him into the ambulance, we shocked him again.”

The man eventually made a full recovery, but Mr Harvey says he is unlikely to ever see him again. “If I met him in the street, I wouldn’t be able to recognise him, because it all happened so quickly. I didn’t feel the adrenaline at all,” he added.

Having experienced their life-saving potential first-hand, Mr Harvey is happy to back the Jamie Skinner Foundation’s campaign – the Evening News-backed drive to ensure every sports and leisure centre in the Lothians carries a defibrillator.

“I cannot believe the simplicity and the outcome of using the defibrillator. Rapid response is massively important for these things to end well,” he said.

“That’s something that will live with me forever, that I’ve helped to save someone’s life. And it’s all through doing a four-hour training course on a machine that you can’t really go wrong with.

“My nine-year-old daughter could use a defib, and she could probably use it quite confidently. Without any training, you can switch it on, and it takes you through the whole process. You can’t harm anybody, because if it detects a pulse, it will not deliver a shock,” Mr Harvey said.

He added: “People need to know. The success stories need to be out there. You can’t put a price on life.”