City chiefs have teamed up with the Scottish Ambulance Service to spend more than £34,000 on the vital devices for all 23 secondary schools in Edinburgh, following months of campaigning by the Skinner family and the Evening News.
The move has been hailed as a “great legacy” for super-fit Jamie, who suffered a fatal cardiac arrest while making his debut for Tynecastle FC at Saughton in December 2013.
His heartbroken family has fought tirelessly for better defibrillator provision, teaming up with the News to launch the Shockingly Easy campaign in July to ensure the heart-start machines are installed in every sports club in the Lothians.
The popular Liberton High School pupil was just 13 when he lost his life, one of 600 apparently fit and healthy young people who die in the UK each year from undiagnosed cardiac conditions.
The details are yet to be finalised on the roll-out of the devices – which cost around £1500 each – but the council hopes to move as quickly as possible, said Councillor Paul Godzik, the city’s education leader.
He said: “There are already a number of schools with defibrillators in them but we all recognise we need to do more.
“There have been a number of high-profile incidents highlighted by the Evening News which have made us realise we needed to look again at our corporate policy.
“I will highlight this next week to members and say how delighted we are to do this following on from the Evening News campaign.”
It is understood that high schools were chosen as cardiac arrests are more likely to occur in teenagers than young children, and the buildings are also used by adult sports teams in the evenings.
More than 1500 Scots died in the community last year after suffering a cardiac arrest, and a shock from one of these heart-start machines within three to five minutes, administered alongside CPR, can increase chances of surviving a cardiac arrest by 75 per cent.
Paul Bassett, general manager of South East Division at the Scottish Ambulance Service, said: “Public access defibrillators make a positive contribution to safer and sustainable communities around the country.
“While we have world class ambulance response times in Scotland, we know that in cardiac cases every second counts and that equipping communities with basic life-saving skills and equipment will further improve survival rates.”
Cllr Godzik has pledged to consider rolling out defibrillators in primary schools and administrative buildings further down the line.
The decision follows moves by North Lanarkshire Council, which became the first local authority in Scotland to install shock boxes in all of its high schools in 2013.
Midlothian Council confirmed it has defibrillators in a number of schools, including Newbattle and Beeslack highs, but it does not currently have a definitive policy.
Neither West nor East Lothian Council has a cohesive defibrillator policy, although many schools and community facilities have the vital equipment.
The announcement has been welcomed by the Skinner family.
Jamie’s cousin, Karen Greechan, 44, who helps to run the Jamier Skinner Foundation, said: “It makes me so proud for Jamie that this is making a difference in schools.
“Kids do PE all the time and we know that anything can happen. I can just see his smiling face and I hope he knows we are giving this 100 per cent.”
The mum-of-two said: “I know I will rest easier knowing my kids are going to be safe when they are at school.
“It’s unbelievable that we have got to this point and all these schools are going to get defibrillators.
“When we set up the Jamie Skinner Foundation we were all in shock after what had happened to Jamie. It’s amazing how far things have come and it’s a great legacy for Jamie.”
Her thoughts were echoed by Jamie’s sister, Sonia McCraw, 30.
She said: “When we set out to do this we wondered if it would take off. People have opened their eyes and what happened to Jamie is really being recognised a lot more.
“We hope that one day in the future our kids can take over the charity, or we will have achieved our goal and everywhere will have a defibrillator, so there won’t be any need for us any more.”
Support for the campaign has flooded in with sports clubs signing up in their droves to take on a defibrillator. But there is still more we can do.
The campaign has received grants from a number of organisations including Scotmid and the Edinburgh and Lothians Health Foundation.
In the kitty is enough money to buy 18 defibrillators outright, or to put money towards the cost of many more.
There are around 800 sports clubs across the Lothians. Many of the larger ones already have defibrillators, but there are still very many which do not.
If your club does not have one then ask yourselves why not.
There are no insurance issues surrounding having one on your premises and they are incredibly easy to use.
They can be used without any training because the devices themselves talk the responder through exactly what they need to do.
“Anyone can learn how to use a defibrillator,” said 17-year-old Cristiano Crolla, who has signed up to do an extra defibrillation module as part of his training to become a lifeguard.
Cristiano, an S6 pupil at St Augustine’s RC High School, said: “Defibrillators massively increase the chance of survival for someone. It is an important life skill for anyone to have.
“I have had a basic rundown on it as part of my life-saving training. It all seems really easy.”
Backing the campaign, Cristiano, who lives in East Craigs, said: “I think it is amazing. There have been a few incidents recently which I have read about and even one where a parent had a cardiac arrest near school. I think every establishment should have a defibrillator.”
Since the launch of the campaign, defibrillators have been installed at Jamie’s former club Edinburgh South and Easthouses Football Club, with a new device arriving for Kirkliston and South Queensferry FC last week.
Several clubs are raising or have raised funds for defibrillators, including Easthouses FC, Dalkeith Miners CYP, Kirkliston and South Queensferry FC, Sighthill Bowling Club, Leith Athletic, Midlothian Boxing Club, Lauriston Thistle FC and Craigroyston CYFC.
Lord Provost Donald Wilson is looking to recruit a team of runners for the Edinburgh Half-Marathon to help the cause.
We still have funding to award from Scotmid as well as the Lothians Health Foundation – a trust fund set up more than 250 years ago – which has pledged £6000 to buy four defibrillators in Edinburgh, Midlothian, East and West Lothian.
Leisure staff come to Colin’s rescue
GYM user Colin Kerr knows only too well the role defibrillators play in life-or-death scenarios.
The 49-year-old 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 2013.
Eyewitnesses described how the full-time carer was “turning grey” after he collapsed during a workout.
Mr Kerr said: “I had no known health issues but last year, without warning, my heart stopped.
“I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for the excellent training and care of Edinburgh Leisure staff.”
Staff member Ed Bethune, who performed life-saving procedures with colleague Paul Murray, endured an anxious wait for Mr Kerr’s pulse to restart after using the machine.
Mr Bethune said: “We started back with CPR as directed by the machine, which I did for another two minutes, then the machine reassessed the casualty.
“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.”
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 sports centre in the Lothians. 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 take a defibrillator course at your sports club
• Learn CPR skills
If you can help, e-mail [email protected].
Clubs involved so far include:
• Easthouses FC
• Edinburgh South FC
• Kirkliston & South Queensferry FC
• Lauriston Thistle FC
• Leith Athletic FC
• Loanhead Miners Youth FC
• Sighthill Bowling Club
• Silverknowes Golf Club