THE Jack’s Appeal campaign to put defibrillators in every secondary school in Gwent has been backed by a UK heart charity that is calling on governments to make such provision compulsory.
The Argus has teamed up with the family of Oakdale teenager Jack Thomas, who died suddenly two years ago, to help secure money to equip our schools.
And the appeal has been welcomed by SADS (Sudden Arrhythmic Death Syndrome) UK, which, through its own Big Shock campaign, is lobbying the UK Government and devolved administrations, including the Welsh Government, for legislation regarding placing defibrillators in schools.
SADS UK has also, over several years, supplied hundreds of schools with the machines through its own fundraising efforts, and founder and chairman Anne Jolly, said: “The donation and placement of defibrillators in schools is absolutely crucial as sudden cardiac arrest can affect a person of any age, even children.
“It is likely that children with undiagnosed heart conditions exist within the school population and sadly, cardiac arrest may happen at any time.
“Applying the defibrillator as soon as possible when a person goes into cardiac arrest gives them best chance of surviving.
“All schools must have fire extinguishers, but the chance of someone dying from a fire at the school is far less likely than a person dying from cardiac arrest.
“If a cardiac arrest occurs, using CPR (cardio-pulmonary resuscitation) along with the defibrillator as soon as possible gives a person the best chance of survival.”
At least 12 young people die suddenly each week in the UK from underlying heart conditions, and SADS UK estimates that around 270 cardiac arrests occur in UK schools every year.
Mrs Jolly added that a defibrillator in a school can benefit people of all ages, teachers as well as pupils, and also those who use school premises for community activities out of school time.
She praised Jack’s Appeal as an example of a campaign that can benefit communities.
n Jack Thomas, 15, died in February 2012, after suddenly beginning to feel ill at his girlfriend’s house in Newbridge, while watching rugby on television.
An inquest subsequently ruled that he died of natural causes, though no specific cause of death could be found. He had no previous health problems.
A charity set up in his memory – CRY in the Valleys: Jack Thomas Memorial Fund held with Cardiac Risk in the Young – has so far raised £23,000 toward getting heart screenings in schools.
Now Jack’s parents Grant and June Thomas, having presented their son’s school, Oakdale comprehensive, with a defibrillator last autumn, have set their sights on ensuring that all secondary schools in Gwent are equipped with one, hence Jack’s Appeal.
Anyone wishing to donate to Jack’s Appeal, whether individually or through a fundraising event, can send cheques payable to Welsh Hearts, to: Welsh Hearts, Temple Court, 13a Cathedral Road, Cardiff, CF11 9HA. Please put ‘Jack Thomas defibs appeal’ on the back of the envelope.