THOUSANDS of pupils can look forward to a safer future after every high school in the Capital was equipped with a life-saving defibrillator – thanks to an Evening News campaign.
City chiefs shelled out £70,000 for heart-start machines in all 23 secondaries in Edinburgh, as well as ten special schools and a number of key office buildings.
It’s sad for us but it is great that what happened to Jamie can help others. What the council is doing shows how much people are really listening.Sonia McCraw
The decision came after council leaders met with the Evening News and the Jamie Skinner Foundation to find out how they could support our Shockingly Easy campaign, which aims to improve defibrillator provision in the Lothians.
The move makes Edinburgh the first local authority in Scotland to equip all of its high schools with the vital kit, which can be accessed by members of the public if needed.
Ambulance leaders praised our campaign, which was launched in 2014 in memory of teenage footballer Jamie Skinner, who suffered a fatal cardiac arrest while playing for Tynecastle FC in December 2013.
More than 150 heart-start machines have been installed across Lothian since the drive was launched, with donations soaring to more than £40,000.
Jamie’s sister, Sonia McCraw, chair of the Jamie Skinner Foundation, said: “We are really pleased about the high schools as it is not just the kids but all the parents and the adults who work there and use the facilities.
“If there is a defibrillator on hand then you have a chance. If it doesn’t save someone then at least their family knows that everything was done to save them.
“For us there was always a ‘what if?’ hanging over as the defibrillator wasn’t used on Jamie. You don’t want that for people.”
It was particularly poignant for the family when Liberton High School, Jamie’s old school, installed its own defibrillator in time for what would have been his 16th birthday.
Sonia, 31, said: “Myself and my brother, Tony, went to that school and what with Jamie being there it was nice to know that they still think about Jamie. I’m sure some of his friends will want to be learning how to use the defibrillator straight away.
“It only takes an hour to learn CPR and to use a defibrillator and then you have that for the rest of your life.
“It’s sad for us but it is great that what happened to Jamie can help others. What the council is doing shows how much people are really listening.
“People are recognising how important it is.”
She said the next step would be for the rollout to be extended to primary schools.
Council chiefs are understood to have chosen high schools initially as teenagers are more likely to suffer cardiac arrests than young children.
Many high school buildings are also used by adult sports teams in the evenings.
When someone goes into cardiac arrest, their heart stops beating completely. Their chance of making a meaningful recovery diminishes quickly unless bystanders perform CPR and a defibrillator is used to shock the heart within five minutes.
More than 1500 Scots died in the community after suffering a cardiac arrest in 2013 and survival figures are still low
Sam Grieve, community resuscitation development officer for the Scottish Ambulance Service, said: “So many more people are starting to be aware of defibrillators. We have really noticed this over the last two years.
“The campaign by the Evening News and the Jamie Skinner Foundation has been absolutely amazing.
“Jamie was a sports player and I think what happened to him had a big impact on the wider community.”
Tynecastle High School is one of the schools to have installed the new shock box, placing the vital equipment near the front door so it can be used by the community.
Headteacher Hazel Kinnear said: “We have had really positive feedback from both parents and students.
“We are also a community school so we have plenty of people using the building for after-school clubs. It will be there for them, too.”
The Scottish Ambulance Service is currently compiling a life-saving map of the city to ensure call handlers know where the nearest defibrillators are in an emergency. If someone is struck down with a cardiac arrest in a nearby street during school hours, then callers will be told there is a defibrillator at Tynecastle they can fetch.
Learning about defibrillators will also be part of the curriculum at Tynecastle High from next year as part of a wider first aid programme.
S6 pupil Rebecca Howard said the students were pleased with the arrival of the defibrillator and keen to learn how to use it. She said: “It is reassuring for students and parents to know that it is there and we could use it if we ever needed it.”
Councillor Cathy Fullerton, deputy leader for schools, said: “Defibrillators save lives, it’s that simple. They are so easy to use and there isn’t any training required. I’m really pleased that they are now in place to help people, both in schools and in the wider community.”