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PIONEERING villagers have come up with a life-saving scheme which looks set to be copied all over Ireland.

Because an emergency ambulance takes about half an hour to reach them, they bought a defibrillator, trained 28 people to use it and put them on an on-call rota.

The machine is kept at a fire station where it can be accessed at all times.

Residents of Belleek, Co Fermanagh, raised the funds for the heart machine and asked the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service to support the new venture.

The scheme means people in the village and surrounding area who suffer a heart attack will have a rapid medical response.

Ten firefighters and 18 members of the community have been trained to use the defibrillator.

Belleek Watch Commander, PJ Daly, said: "This is a big additional service for Belleek as it takes 30 or 40 minutes for an ambulance to come out here.

"We will be telling people to phone for the doctor and we will be contacted. All those who have been trained up have access to the station and it will work on an on-call basis."

NI Fire and Rescue Service's Western Area Commander, Eoin Doyle, said the service was delighted to be part of this initiative and hoped other areas would follow.

He said: "As this is such an important life saving scheme, NIFRS would welcome approaches from other community groups across Northern Ireland interested in exploring the use of their fire station as an effective location for the storage and access of defibrillators."

The portable defibrillator, which saves countless thousands of lives worldwide, was invented in Belfast by Royal Victoria Hospital cardiologist, Professor Frank Pantridge.

Since the mid-1950s it was known that thousands of deaths occurred after a coronary attack due to ventricular fibrillation, a total disorganisation of the heart's normal rhythm.

This could be corrected with a short but massive electric shock to the heart, and many hospitals equipped themselves with mains defibrillators.

Professor Pantridge pointed out that since two-thirds of deaths occurred in the first hour after the onset of an attack, it would make more sense to take the defibrillator to the patient by way of a specialist "heart ambulance".

So in the winter of 1965, at the Royal Victoria hospital Pantridge, with colleagues Alfred Mawhinney, a technician, and John Geddes, a senior house officer, converted a mains defibrillator to operate from two car batteries in the back of an old ambulance.

Thus was born the world's first mobile defibrillator, the ancestor to today's portable lifesavers.


Lifesaver... A portable defibrillator
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Copyright 2007 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Apr 1, 2007
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