‘If the defibrillator hadn’t been there, I wouldn’t be here . . .’

George Burns (second from right) with to his left Sean Harkin, Derry & Strabane Council, and Jim Ross, club trreasurer, and the paramedics, who all helped save his life.
George Burns (second from right) with to his left Sean Harkin, Derry & Strabane Council, and Jim Ross, club trreasurer, and the paramedics, who all helped save his life.

A Derry man has said he would not be alive today but for a defibrillator being available after he collapsed at Lisnagelvin Bowling Club.

George Burns from Caw Hill Park said the swift actions of Derry City & Strabane District Council employee, Shaun Harkin, Lisnagelvin club treasurer, Jim Ross and ambulance service staff saved his life.

George Burns (80) sauid he owes his life to the quick thinking actions of those who saved his life with the aid of the defibrillator.

George Burns (80) sauid he owes his life to the quick thinking actions of those who saved his life with the aid of the defibrillator.

The 80-years-old was this week reunited with all those who worked with him after he suffered a Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) on May 16 this year.

Shaun Harkin had previously undergone council training on using a defibrillator. Recalling what happened he said: “It was just a practise night and George went into the clubhouse. I was following him in and he just collapsed back towards me and I managed to catch him on the way down. He went sort of blue in the face. we called Jim Ross and CPR was started and it didn’t seem to be bringing him round. I said, ‘look I have the defib there’ and we got it and took his shirt off and put the patches on the side of his chest and shocked him. We saw colour coming back into his face.

“The defib made the big difference. It’s a life-saver. He wouldn’t be standing here today without it.”

Jim Ross is treasurer at the bowling club and is trained in first aid. He was on the green playing when George collapsed. “I heard a call,’ Jim, quick, quick’. “I went in and George was on the floor and I knew to look at him he was very ill. I could see he wasn’t breathing. There was no pulse. I immediately started CPR. Meanwhile Shaun, the greenkeeper, who had helped George as he fell, fetched the defib. We got that ready, we got George ready and we put it on him. We had never used it before. As soon as we shocked him I could see the colour starting to come back into him. It was amazing. But it kept telling us to carry on with the CPR.”

The men took turns working on George until N.I. Ambulance Service personnel arrived and took over. After working on him, they then transferred George from the scene to Altnagelvin Hospital. George was later operated on and had stents fitted there.

He is now back leading a full and active life and remembers little about the incident. “I played bowls, I went in to the clubhouse and after that I woke up at Altnagelvin,” he said. But he is in no doubt that the swift actions of the others who were there that evening and the availability of the defibrillator saved his life.

“All I can say I’m very grateful to them to be quite honest. Without their contribution I wouldn’t be here. If the defibrillator hadn’t been here, I wouldn’t be here, it’s as simple as that. It made the difference. ”

George has since raised £450 for Chest, Heart & Stroke through a competition at the green. And as part of a scheme aimed at saving more lives, the supplier of the type of defibrillator used (Heartsine) has introduced a Forward Hearts initiative, whereby the survivor of a cardiac arrest is given the opportunity to potentially save other lives by donating another defibrillator. George, who was presented with his defibrillator by the Heartsine organisation at the bowling green on Tuesday, has chosen the All Saints Caring Association.

Around 1400 Out-of-Hospital Cardiac arrests (OOHCA) occur in Northern Ireland each year, with a survival rate of just 10%.