Surfer’s campaign for a national database

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Forty eight-year-old Bill Shackman has joined leading charities and health organisations to urge defibrillator owners to register their devices on a national database. This would allow 999 call handlers to direct people to the equipment they need before emergency services arrive.

The Fife father-of-three who survived a cardiac arrest after surfing off St Andrews, is backing a new, lifesaving defibrillator campaign.

“I’d headed down to the beach because the weather conditions were perfect for surfing,” he said. “People at the beach tell me I’d been out in the water for a while. Then I came back to shore. I must have felt something wasn’t right but I don’t remember anything. The next thing I know I am waking up in hospital.”

“Quite simply, I wouldn’t be here without them to see my children grow up, to spend time with my family,” he said. They were ready to respond and determined to keep me alive. I am so grateful to the whole community that came together to save me. I, my family and friends, we can never thank them enough. What happened has definitely made me think about what is really important in life – family, friends.”

Bill said knowing where a defibrillator is could make all the difference to someone’s life. “I know that only too well,” he said.

The campaign, launched on Friday, calls for defibrillators to be registered on The Circuit, a national network that connects to NHS ambulance services. It means they can be accessed quickly in those crucial moments after a cardiac arrest.

Bill had suffered a cardiac arrest and a group of surfers ran to help. Luckily for Bill, Scott Mitchell had just completed CPR training at his work earlier that week and Lewis Hamilton, a retired firefighter, knew where the nearest defibrillator was and ran to get it while the group waited for an ambulance.

The men continued to take turns performing CPR and used the defibrillator on him until the paramedics arrived. He was then taken to Ninewells Hospital, Dundee, where he was later diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and fitted with an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD)

Bill says the national database is crucial. “The Circuit is such an important tool to help save more lives,” he said. Please, if you are a guardian of a publicly accessible defibrillator, register it with The Circuit.”

Emily, Bill’s wife, added: “We know how lucky we have been. Only one in ten people survives an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest in Scotland and that’s why The Circuit is so important to us.If a defibrillator isn’t registered on The Circuit then the ambulance service can’t find it when it’s needed the most. But doing so could help save a life.”

There are around 3,200 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests every year in Scotland but only one in 10 people survive. But immediate CPR and defibrillation can more than double the chances of survival. Every minute that passes without CPR or defibrillation reduces the chances of survival by up to 10% in some instances.

It is estimated that public access defibrillators are used in fewer than one in 10 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests across the UK. If the 999 responder doesn’t know it’s there, they can’t direct someone to it while waiting for an ambulance.

James Jopling, head of the British Heart Foundation (BHF) Scotland said: “Every second counts when someone has a cardiac arrest and, alongside CPR, prompt use of a defibrillator is critical in giving them the best chance of survival.

“To put it simply, knowing where the nearest defibrillator is could be the difference between life and death.”

Four major organisations are backing the defibrillator campaign: The British Heart Foundation, Resuscitation Council UK, St John Ambulance and Association of Ambulance Chief Executives.

To Register, visit .

St Andrews QV (Qui Vive) is an independent not-for-profit, non-political platform for news and debates about issues that are important to the Town. It exists to hold decision makers and public services to account while its editorial policy is to accommodate all shades of opinion from all parts of the community, prioritising evidence-based arguments. St Andrews QV is a member of the Independent Community News Network and is committed to the Community Journalism Charter

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