Register defib to save lives, says family of teenager who suffered cardiac arrest

The family of a teenager who survived a cardiac arrest has called on those who own defibrillators to register their devices.

Lucy King was just 13 years old when she suffered a cardiac arrest in February 2020.

Her parents have said that without early intervention and the use of the device, Lucy wouldn't have survived the night.

They're now urging owners to add their defibrillators to the Circuit - an online network that allows the Ambulance Service to locate the closest device.

The King family believe doing so will help to will save many lives.

Lucy's mum Nicola performed CPR until paramedics arrived at the house. Credit: UTV

Last year, when the family were living in Limavady, Lucy suffered a cardiac arrest in the middle of the night.

Her mother Nicola said: "At about six o'clock in the morning, we heard this loud, strange noise coming from Lucy's bedroom.

"We thought maybe she was having a bad dream but it went on for a few seconds."

She continued: "So we ran in and she was sitting upright in bed with her arms out, fixed stare. She wasn't really there ... then she collapsed."

Lucy's brother Thomas ran to a local shop to find a defibrillator. Credit: British Heart Foundation

A former ICU nurse, Nicola began to perform CPR and chest compressions while Lucy's father Richard phoned the Ambulance Service.

Directed to find their closest defibrillator, her brother Thomas made his way to a local shop.

Nicola said: "He ran - it was snowing that morning and he just had his pyjama bottoms on - and he ran all the way to the shop about five minutes away. He said he's never ran so fast in his life."

Thomas returned with the defibrillator as paramedics arrived at the family's home, who were then able to use the device on Lucy.

Lucy's father Richard told UTV the event very traumatic. Credit: UTV

She added: "You obviously can do CPR for so long but you need the defibrillator. She was in a shockable rhythm and she wouldn't have come out of that without the defib.

"It saved her life."

Lucy was transferred to the Royal Hospital in Belfast where she remained in ICU for three days and in hospital for three weeks.

Her parents later learned she had a genetic heart condition called left ventricular non-compaction cardiomyopathy.

Since then, Lucy has continued to recover from the ordeal; learning to walk and talk again.

Hundreds of defibrillators have gone unregistered in Northern Ireland. Credit: British Heart Foundation

Now, twenty months on, the King family are backing a campaign from the British Heart Foundation urging defibrillator owners to register them with 'The Circuit'.

The National Defibrillator Network connects defibrillators to NHS ambulance services across the UK.

In Northern Ireland, however, hundreds have gone unregistered.

The British Heart Foundation say that in those crucial moments when someone is having a cardiac arrest, the database will allow devices to be accessed quickly to help more people survive.

Ferghal McKinnney said: "We're trying to reach out to all those people that know their defibs in community halls, in libraries, in public spaces that aren't yet registered.

"And if only the ambulance service had the details of those defibrillators then they could come into use just in the way they did with Lucy."

The Circuit connects defibrillators to NHS ambulance services across the UK. Credit: British Heart Foundation

Of the 1,400 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests (OHCAs) that happen in Northern Ireland each year, less than 1 in 10 people survive.

Since launching in the same month as Lucy's incident, the database has allowed the Ambulance Service to direct 999 emergency callers at the scene of a cardiac arrest to the nearest defibrillator in their community 582 times.

Northern Ireland Ambulance Service's Stephanie Leckey has stressed that the "seconds and minutes that are so important after a cardiac arrest."

She said: "For every minute someone is in cardiac arrest, their chance of survival decreases by ten percent.

"So, the faster someone can ring 9-9-9, get hands on the chest and do chest compressions and get the closest defibrillator - then every second counts."

Frank Pantridge transformed emergency medicine and paramedic services with the invention of the portable defibrillator. Credit: Pacemaker

The portable defibrillator was invented in Northern Ireland over fifty years ago and has gone on to save many lives across the world.

Hillsborough man Frank Pantridge invented the device while working at the Royal Victoria Hospital in 1965.

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