Defibrillator 500m rule revealed after tourist’s cardiac arrest

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A tourist’s cardiac arrest at a fishing pond in Inverawe has flagged up the urgent need for remote areas to have more defibrillators.

It was sheer luck that when William Wallace’s heart got into trouble this summer, a retired doctor with his former nurse wife and their doctor daughter, happened to be having a fishing lesson nearby.

Inverawe Fisheries manager Charlene Servant also remembered seeing a defibrillator at Taynuilt Sports Pavilion three miles away and sent colleagues to fetch it.

Mr Wallace’s wife Lorraine had been reading a book in their car when she heard him shouting for help.

The 69-year-old was having a major heart attack and was in a semi-conscious state as the other tourist family and their second daughter went to his aid along with fisheries staff as they waited for paramedics to arrive.

It was just as paramedics were about to take over the emergency that Mr Wallace went into compete cardiac arrest and turned blue.

The defibrillator was used three times to shock him back to life. Stabilised, he was airlifted to Glasgow’s Jubilee Hospital where he was operated on that night and had three stents fitted to his heart.

The grateful family has since sent a bouquet and update thanking Charlene for helping save his life.

‘I could see the man was deteriorating when I remembered seeing a defibrillator at the sports pavilion in Taynuilt. I got the directors from the fisheries to go and get it. The family who’d been looking after William had set it up as the ambulance arrived.

‘As the family were handing over to the paramedics he went into cardiac arrest. It was not a peaceful scene. It took the family of four and the paramedics to hold him down. They were all working on him. They used the defibrillator three times and managed to stabalise him.

‘A bit later the helicopter landed in the field and he was taken to the Golden Jubilee where he was operated on that evening.

‘He’s recovering at home now and it is a happy ending but if it had not been for the doctor family and the defibrillator there is no way he would’ve made it. He was unconcious and blue,’ said Charlene.

Now Charlene and others in the community are talking about getting more defibrillators widely available in the area – sooner rather than later, she says.

The need is even more urgent after it was discovered the Scottish Ambulance Service has a policy not to give details of defibrillators if they are more than 500 metres away from the casualty.

‘I found that rule amazing. In William’s case the nearest defibrillator was three miles away. I remembered it, we got it to him and it made such a difference to him. It definitely proved the point that rural communities need more of them. In places like this it is unlikely someone needing a defibrillator would be less than 500 metres from one.’

A Scottish Ambulance Service spokesperson said: ‘SAS is working in line with the current guidance from the Resuscitation Council UK on the placement of AEDs and our policy has been benchmarked against a variety of other UK Ambulance Trusts who also have remote and rural areas.  Research consistently highlights that an AED is most effective and provides the best chance of survival when ideally used within the first three minutes of a cardiac arrest and to extend the radius beyond the current 500m would undermine the critical need to minimise any delay. When a cardiac arrest call is received by one of our call handlers, they will advise bystanders if there is an AED available within 500m.’

Taynuilt community council convener David Sloss said he is actively looking at more defibrillators for the community and seeking funding for them.

The defibrillator at the village sports pavilion is the only public access one and was provided by a shinty charity.

‘Had we known about the 500m rule we would’ve considered the need for more defibrillators in other locations before now. As it stands, if someone has a cardiac arrest at the top of our main street the call handler would not tell them one was here at the sports centre because it is more than 500m away.

‘There will be other communities and other people raising funds for these essential defibrillators who are deciding the best place to put them and who know nothing about the 500m rule. It should be made known.’