Dungiven defib pioneers will ‘save lives’

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A co-ordinated community network of publicly accessible defibrillators in the Dungiven area ‘will save lives’ according to a leading member of Northern Ireland Ambulance Service (NIAS).

John Wright, Co-ordinator of Community Resuscitation Strategy with NIAS, made the comment during an information event which was held to introduce the newly formed network.

Mr. Wright described the initiative as a ‘superb idea.’

To date, 11 life-saving defibrillators are available and publicly accessible in Dungiven and outlying areas.

The devices are housed in local schools, churches, community groups and sports clubs.

Representatives from the local organisations came together in Dungiven Library to hear more information about the community defibrillator network which has been formed in the area.

The idea for the community network came about in December, 2016 following a successful fundraiser and high profile draw run by St. Patrick’s College in the town to purchase a defibrillator for the school.

As part of the successful efforts, Conor Lavery, a teacher at the north Derry school, approached Dungiven native Eoin Mullan, who works for NIAS, to get advice on the most suitable unit to purchase.

When Eoin suggested that the school consider making the defibrillator publicly accessible in a secure and thermostatically regulated outdoor box with key code access, plans for the community network were put into motion.

Conor and Eoin, along with local man Keith Kelly, looked into both the availability and accessibility of defibrillators in the local area and identified a number of places where there was no access to defibrillators.

Keith explained: “We consulted with various people, churches, clubs, schools, businesses, community groups and the local fire service and everyone showed great enthusiasm and extraordinary generosity. Everyone got actively involved and we thank them all for this. Currently there are defibrillators already, or in the process of being made accessible, in the Benedy, Dungiven chapel, St. Patrick’s College, St. Canice’s GAA club, the fire station, Eurospar, Garvagh Road pitch, Kevin Lynch Hurling Club, Gortnaghey Chapel, St. Colm’s GAC, Drum and Drumsurn chapel.

“To our knowledge this is the first coordinated defibrillator network in the country. Other areas need access. Defibrillators can save lives. Local community groups need the help of our politicians to increase the awareness of the need for these devices and trained individuals within our communities. Ideally this is only a starting point. Let Dungiven and the area be an example of what can be done and hopefully other areas will follow our lead. Directly or indirectly, involvement in this scheme could mean that you are saving someone’s life,” he added.

John Wright from NIAS told those in attendance that the defibrillators would be available to the public should someone in the area suffer cardiac arrest.After dialling ‘999’, the caller will be directed by the controller to the nearest publicly accessible defibrillator and be given an access code to retrieve the device.

Mr Wright also urged any other organisations which have a defibrillator to make NIAS aware so it can be included in the network and registered with them.

“We are delighted to have the defibrillator network. Well done to Eoin, Conor and Keith for making the effort voluntarily as the community will benefit. “I think what you have done so far is superb and will save lives,” he said.

Eoin said: “The enthusiasm and generosity shown throughout this process to date has been absolutely brilliant. I would like to thank everyone for getting on board and also encourage anyone interested in doing something similar in their community area to go ahead and take the first steps.”