More than 20,000 children across Yorkshire have been taught skills that could prove the difference between life and death – something 15-year-old Alex Cowes knows all too well.
The teenager, who lives in Escrick, near York, has a link to Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust’s (YAS) Restart a Heart Day initiative like no other.
Months after taking part in the inaugural 2014 event, which taught almost 11,000 pupils CPR, sports-mad Alex suddenly collapsed during a PE lesson at Fulford School, in York, on April 30 this year.
Staff immediately recognised the seriousness of the situation and PE teacher Kat Fairbairn raised the alarm as two other members of staff started CPR and first aider Sue Igoe used a defibrillator to shock his heart back into action.
Remarkably Alex regained consciousness by the time paramedics arrived on the scene to take him to York Hospital and the youngster went on to complete 14 GCSE exams.
The very skills that children at 88 secondary schools across the White Rose learned today saved Alex’s life.
“I had no idea how to do CPR before Restart a Heart Day last year but now this has happened to me, I know how important it is and everyone should be made aware of the benefits,” said Alex, who now has a cardioverter defibrillator implanted in his chest to continuously monitor his heartbeat.
“I am so thankful to the staff at the school for acting as quickly as they did; what they did saved my life.”
This year’s Restart a Heart Day was the biggest event of its kind in the world and brought together teams from YAS, St John Ambulance, Humberside Fire and Rescue Service, Hull Royal Infirmary, York District Hospital, Barnsley Hospital, Doncaster Royal Infirmary, the Sheffield-based Embrace paediatric transport service and North West Ambulance Service.
Yorkshire Carnegie star Andy Forsyth joined youngsters at King James’s School, in Almondbury, Huddersfield, while Leeds North West MP Greg Mulholland took part in the event at Prince Henry’s Grammar School, in Otley, Leeds.
At Prince Henry’s around 220 year nine pupils were given half hour lessons in a bid to equip young people with the ability to help to some of the 30,000 people who suffer cardiac arrests outside of hospitals in the UK every year.
Dr Julian Mark, who is the executive medical director at YAS, led the session at Prince Henry’s with support from community first responders and St John Ambulance.
“The reason for this is that evidence is there to show school pupils are the best people at spreading the word, they are likely to show and tell their new skills to three other people,” he said. “You get a big cascade effect. Year on year we are going to teach more and more pupils.”
Organisers hope that the initiative will directly or indirectly teach one million people lifesaving skills over the next five years.
Yorkshire’s event, which took place on the European Resuscitation Council’s Restart a Heart Day, was sponsored by the YAS Charitable Fund.
It once again linked in with the Resuscitation Council and British Heart Foundation, which provides the demonstration equipment as part of its Nation of Lifesavers campaign.
Prince Henry’s pupil Hannah Collins, 13, said: “Anyone could have a cardiac arrest, so it’s always important to be there to help people if they need saving. Every school should do this because anyone could be affected – the more people the better.”
For information on Restart a Heart Day visit www.restartaheart.yas.nhs.uk.