Bernard Gallacher says golf clubs without a defibrillator are 'irresponsible'
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Figures show that as many as 400 golfers suffer heart attacks on UK golf courses every year, with heart disease currently accounting for one in four deaths in the UK.
Research by Golf Care in 2019 found that around two-thirds of UK golf courses did not have an on-site defibrillator. There are more than 2,000 golf clubs in the UK, of which fewer than 700 have officially registered details of a defibrillator on the National Golf Course Defibrillator Register.
Although progress has been made in recent years, Bathgate man Gallacher, an ambassador for Golf Care, is urging golf courses yet to install an AED to do so. It comes as the 74-year-old reflects on the cardiac arrest that left him ‘medically dead’ and in a coma for a week in 2013.
The three-time Ryder Cup captain was on a hotel stage in Aberdeen about to deliver a guest speech to an audience of golfers when suddenly he collapsed, having suffered a cardiac arrest.
He said: “Luckily for me, the quick actions of a retired A&E nurse and various others in the audience saved my life. I had no pulse and was given CPR while someone accessed the hotel defibrillator.
“I’d always considered myself fit and healthy for my age, being a gym-regular, non-smoker, moderate drinker, and with no real underlying health issues besides slightly elevated blood pressure.
“Waking up in the Royal Aberdeen Infirmary a week later surrounded by my family was a shock, to say the least.”
Ten years on, Gallacher has no clear memory of the events of that night, or even of the day before, but has since pushed for more heart health awareness and more widespread accessibility of defibrillators, both in and out of golf.
He added: “My family and I started a campaign to encourage UK golf clubs to provide defibrillators somewhere on their premises—whether it be in the clubhouse or the ‘halfway hut’.
“We knew there was a high number of people suffering cardiac arrests or heart attacks on golf courses, so, naturally, it made sense.
“Defibrillators are quite simply life savers. If they can be accessed quickly enough, they can shock the heart back into its normal rhythm to give you a good chance of a complete recovery.
“They’re also fully automated, so they can instruct anyone how to proceed in an emergency, even if they have not been specifically trained. That said, I do think that CPR should be taught to everyone in school - everyone deserves the chance to be saved.
“Every golf club - big or small - has a duty to provide a defibrillator and educate their members on safe usage. The stats don’t lie, and more awareness is certainly needed. It is wholly irresponsible for a golf club not to have at least one on-site defibrillator in 2023.
“Defibrillators should be a lot more commonplace outside of golf, too. My goal is for them to be as common in society as fire extinguishers.”