THREE minutes may not seem like very long – enough time to make a cup of tea perhaps, or flick through a magazine.
It is also how long it takes for your brain to die after suffering a cardiac arrest.
The key to survival is immediate CPR and defibrillation to kickstart the heart, according to consultant cardiologist Dr Miles Behan, who is the latest figure to back the Evening News’ Shockingly Easy campaign to fit life-saving defibrillators in sports venues across Edinburgh and the Lothians.
Our Christmas campaign is aimed at spreading the word about the life-saving devices to identify locations across the Lothians which can host a heartstart machine.
A social media drive which encourages people to draw a heart on a piece of paper and post a #shockinglyeasy selfie while pledging to spread the word has already taken off with a host of well known faces joining the cause.
Dr Behan praised the campaign today as he hailed the use of defibrillators.
“When someone is in cardiac arrest their brain will die after three minutes so it is critical that chest compressions are started early to ensure survival.
“CPR may get some blood going to the brain but you want to get the heart started by giving them a shock with the defibrillator to restart their heart. You are more likely to get a good quality of survival without brain damage if a defibrillator is used.
“The way to survive is to get rapid treatment and if you have a defibrillator nearby you are much more likely to get that in three minutes than if you wait for an ambulance – which will come very quickly but it is still precious seconds.”
Our Shockingly Easy campaign, which was launched in July in memory of 13-year-old Jamie Skinner, who died after suffering a cardiac arrest on a Saughton football pitch, has already raised tens of thousands of pounds to buy defibrillators. Fundraising events are continuing but we do not yet have enough clubs volunteering to provide a home for the vital heart start machines.
Dr Behan knows from first hand experience how easy access to a defib can save lives, having used one a number of times, including a terrifying moment when someone collapsed on Brighton Pier while he was visiting the beach. “I have used them in public before and they are remarkable. It is a wonderful thing to be able to save someone’s life.”
He added: “Cardiac arrests are rare but it is such a devastating thing. Cardiac arrests in the young, particularly, can destroy a whole family.
“It is such an unpredicable thing that it is worthwhile having something in place in case something does happen.”
Dr Behan, who works at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary and Spire Edinburgh Hospitals, said: “A cardiac arrest is an electrical malfunction on the heart so that the pump is no longer working and so the flow of blood doesn’t get to the brain and the body.
“There are several causes for this, one of which might be a heart attack, but sometimes it can be a sign of a damaged heart or a genetic condition.”
The terms “heart attack” and “cardiac arrest” are often used interchangeably but are actually very different, as a heart attack is caused when blood vessels to the heart – known as coronary arteries – become blocked and prevent blood getting through.
The symptoms include chest pains, breathlessness and nausea.
A heart attack can then cause a cardiac arrest, where the heart stops pumping – preventing oxygen from getting around the body.
A cardiac arrest often has no symptoms or warning signs, said Dr Behan, as a sudden collapse can be the first indication that the person had a heart condition.
The intervention of a defibrillator and CPR at this point is the only thing that will save the person’s life by shocking the heart back into action.
Lifestyle factors such as being overweight, smoking and having high cholesterol can lead to a greater risk of suffering a heart attack, but Dr Behan emphasised these factors are not linked to cardiac arrests.
Early detection is key as more than half a million people in the UK carry faulty genes which cause undiagnosed cardiac conditions, according to the British Heart Foundation.
While rare, anyone with a family history should see a doctor.
Commonwealth Games medallists Josh Taylor and Lynsey Sharp are among the swathes of people who have joined our Christmas appeal to raise awareness.
500,000 people in the UK have the genes which can cause the conditions related to sudden cardiac death
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:
• Raise the issue with the committee of your local sports club and ask them to support the campaign.
• Learn CPR skills or volunteer to host a training session at your club. If you can help, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
• If you already have a defibrillator, please let us know too, so you can be added to the ambulance services’ defibrillator map of the Lothians.
• On social media.
• If you want to make a donation, cheques payable to The Jamie Skinner Foundation can be sent to Shockingly Easy, Edinburgh Evening News, Orchard Brae House, 30 Queensferry Road, EH4 2HS. Donate online at fundrazr.com, search for Jamie Skinner.
‘We struggled in past to buy defib’
A PSYCHIC night has secured a future for young footballers by helping one club to purchase a life-saving defibrillator.
Jean Howie, who lives across the road from Lauriston Thistle’s East Pilton park ground, raised an astonishing £1200 for the team by hosting “a night of clairvoyance” after reading about the Shockingly Easy campaign.
Businesses supported the event by giving away 59 raffle prizes to lucky guests, including Hearts and Hibs tickets and free haircuts.
Mark Dolphin, president of Lauriston Thistle FC, said: “A few years ago one of our senior players suffered a heart attack while playing.
“Luckily it wasn’t too bad an attack, but it kind of opened our eyes to
“At the time there was a physiotherapist who had done first aid training and he was able to do compressions until the ambulance arrived.”
The team had wanted to buy a defibrillator in the past but struggled to raise the money.
Mark added: “When it happened to Jamie Skinner – and now we have our youth teams – we thought it would be a good idea to get one.”
The club – which has 100 members playing for its three youth teams and one adult team – also received £250 from Scotmid towards the cost of the shock box.
The team hopes to install its defibrillator in the New Year.