Limerick secondary school students and teachers learnt of the vital importance of Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) skills as they participated in a pioneering school initiative 'Save a Heart' at the University of Limerick recently. Limerick is the first county in Ireland to run such a programme where teachers are trained in Automated External Defibrillator (AED) use and both teachers and students are taught CPR skills. As part of this initiative each school is being provided with a defibrillator free of charge by Fleming Medical Ltd.
The Graduate Medical School of the University of Limerick, the Irish Red Cross, and Fleming Medical came together to establish the 'Save a Heart' initiative with the ultimate aim of averting tragedy by increasing awareness of sudden cardiac death and providing people with the skills to intervene effectively in cardiac arrest situations.
Sudden Cardiac death is defined as death due to natural causes ... and assumed to have a cardiac cause. (Cardiac First Responder Guide; Health Service Executive, 2008).
In cases of cardiac arrest irreversible brain damage occurs within 3-5 minutes of the arrest and every one minute delay in the provision of CPR decreases chances of survival by 10%. Where early CPR and early Defibrillation is provided chances of survival increase to 30%. The skills learned through this initiative emphasise that the rapid use of basic life support and AED skills can dramatically increase a patient's chance of survival.
Dr Cathal O Donnell, Consultant in Emergency Medicine & Director of Centre for pre hospital research, Graduate Medical School at University of Limerick commented on the eagerness of Limerick schools with over 83% of secondary schools in the city and county registered for this programme. 'Without the support and enthusiasm of local schools this initiative would not be able to achieve the mass awareness and skill provision in CPR which it hopes to achieve.' Each participating school put forward a minimum of 2 teachers and 20 students. Over 500 young people and over 60 teachers will have been trained in these essential skills by the end of April and this training will hopefully be just the first step in developing a sustainable programme in the schools. Area Director of Units of the Limerick Red Cross Dr. Andrew Kelly stated that ' We are very lucky to have developed such an effective partnership with Fleming Medical and the Graduate Medical School at UL to provide this innovative initiative to Limerick schools."
The training undertaken is consistent with recommendations made by the Department of Health and Children's Report 'Reducing the Risk: a Strategic Approach' which is the report of the taskforce on sudden cardiac death published in March 2006. The programme further follows the cardiac first responder guide issued jointly by the Health service executive pre-hospital emergency care council and Irish Heart Foundation, March 2008.
Over 30 Defibrillators were presented to the schools participating in the Save a Heart School Initiative by Mark Fleming of Fleming Medical with Prof. Paul Finucane, Graduate Medical School at UL and Fintan Breen, Irish Red Cross, Limerick.