ON CHRISTMAS Day the Geddes family will be more grateful than most to enjoy the festivities together.
Grandfather John, 74, never imagined he would be able to spend the occasion with wife Betty when he received a late-night call saying she was fighting for her life after suffering a cardiac arrest in a Linlithgow street.
She had spent the evening watching her 17-year-old granddaughter, Cara, perform in a play and was waiting at a bus stop with daughter Marianne, 47, and 14-year-old grandson Luke when she suddenly collapsed to the ground.
Tragedy was averted by the timely use of a defibrillator by off-duty firefighter Derek Mair and his wife, Jayne – a former nurse – who were driving by when they saw Betty collapse on October 22.
The life-saving potential of these heart-start machines is the focus of our Shockingly Easy campaign, which aims to ensure defibrillators are installed in every sports centre in the Lothians.
The Evening News has teamed up with the family of 13-year-old Jamie Skinner, who died after suffering a cardiac arrest while playing football at Saughton.
Already the campaign has raised more than £30,000 to pay for defibrillators and our Christmas appeal aims to encourage clubs to ensure the safety of their players by taking on a machine.
Betty, 73, might not be here today if not for the actions of Derek, who dashed to Linlithgow fire station to grab the defibrillator which restarted her heart.
He was able to deliver three cycles of shocks while his wife and another off-duty nurse performed CPR until an ambulance arrived 20 minutes later.
The grandmother-of-four, who lives in Marchmont, said: “I just couldn’t remember what had happened when I woke up in hospital and I didn’t know where I was. I had to get my husband to tell me.
“I had two cracked ribs which were very sore afterwards. It was very difficult getting in and out of bed and I was in quite a lot of pain.”
Betty spent two weeks in the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary recovering, where she had a mini implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) fitted to monitor her heart rate.
The matchbox-sized device is implanted below the collarbone and emits shocks to the heart if it ever starts beating abnormally.
Betty said: “I would just like to thank them all for being there and knowing there was a defibrillator handy – otherwise I might not have made it.
“I am very, very grateful.”
Husband John described himself as “an emotional wreck” when he received a call to say his wife had been taken to hospital.
The retired accountant said: “They did CPR and the fireman went to the fire station to get the defibrillator and that’s what brought Betty back.
“It was very scary, I can assure you.
“The last time I had a phone call like that was when my mother died. I thought ‘Oh God, not a repeat of that’. But fortunately not.”
John rushed to hospital to be with his wife and endured an agonising night of waiting to see whether she would pull through.
Although she had once suffered a heart attack 13 years ago, Betty was fit and healthy and has since made an impressive recovery.
Backing the Shockingly Easy campaign, John said: “We need to give this fireman a lot of credit for his quick thinking to go and get that defibrillator.
“I can’t thank them all enough. I just keep thinking ‘My God, she is lucky’.
“Without them she would have been dead.”
Betty added: “I am all for this campaign. I think these defibrillators should be available everywhere.”
Betty was discharged from hospital on November 4, just in time to celebrate John’s birthday the next day and the couple’s 43rd wedding anniversary on November 6.
Paramedics said the actions of the Mairs and the off-duty nurse were critical in saving Betty’s life as anyone suffering a cardiac arrest outside of hospital is three times more likely to survive if there is a defibrillator nearby.
Firefighters such as Derek are trained to use the vital heart-starting devices, which are carried in half of all fire appliances, as well as many of the region’s fire stations.
A Scottish Fire and Rescue Service spokesman said: “Defibrillators have been made available by the service to frontline personnel across Scotland, so that firefighters can use them to give immediate aid to people who suffer cardiac arrests outwith a hospital environment.
“The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service do far more than putting out fires and attending road traffic collisions – the introduction of this vital equipment is an important step towards our commitment of making our communities safe.”
Our social media campaign has gathered speed, with many well-known faces from the area sending in pictures of themselves holding a piece of paper with a heart and the words Shockingly Easy to show their support for the cause.
It is estimated that there are around 60,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests suffered in the UK each year.
‘Our goal is to buy a defibrillator’
YOUNG footballers are hoping to score a defibrillator by hosting a series of events to reach their fundraising total.
Kirkliston and South Queensferry (KSQ) FC are now well on the way to buying the vital medical equipment, which is worth £2000, after scooping the first tranche of funding from Scotmid.
The club, which has 250 young players on its books, was awarded a £250 grant towards the life-saving device from Scotmid, which has offered to donate to 11 sports clubs near its shops in the region which have their own in-store devices.
KSQFC secretary Mark Richardson said: “As a club we felt it was clear that we needed to purchase a defibrillator because of what happened to Jamie Skinner.
“It is an important goal for us but we still need to raise more money.”
With support from the Evening News and the Jamie Skinner Foundation, the organisation now hopes to hit its fundraising goal in the New Year.
KSQFC intend to appeal to parents from its ten teams to come forward with donations towards the defibrillator, as well as hosting fundraisers such as a race night which is planned for February at Kirkliston Bowling Club.
Once the shock box is purchased, the team intends to install it in ther pavillion at Allison Park in Kirkliston where it will be available for use by anyone in the community.
The club will also be able to transport the defibrillator to away games with them in future.