Mum's mission to put a defibrillator in every school

Caroline Rainey


Caroline Rainey

Knowing that her three-year-old son is at risk of sudden death due to a heart condition has inspired a Banbridge mother, who also has the same condition, to ensure that defibrillators are available in all local schools.

Lisa McGurnaghan and her son Dan both have Long QT Syndrome (LQTS) also known as Sudden Arrhythmic Death Syndrome (SADS).

This is a condition that affects repolarisation of the heart after a heartbeat, which causes an increased risk of an irregular heartbeat which can result in fainting, drowning or sudden death.

Lisa began a fundraising drive last month to raise money for a defibrillator in their Summerhill home and was overwhelmed when their target was reached in just two weeks.

Lisa was then contacted by Co Armagh charity iCare who said they would like to donate a defibrillator for her and her son, which left Lisa with one defibrillator and enough money to purchase another.

When Lisa started to inform about a school place for Dan, she was shocked to discover that it isn’t standard practice for defibrillators to be in all schools. This prompted her latest fundraising mission to ensure all schools in Banbridge and the surrounding area have this life-saving piece of equipment.

“When I was younger I would have been very active but I always ended up in hospital. I always used to faint. I would have crossed the finish line at sports day first but then I would have collapsed.

“They did tests when I went to hospital but they always just said that I was too dehydrated or that I was skinny,” said Lisa.

It was not until she was in her 20s that Lisa began to think that she needed to get her general health examined.

“When I was an adult, I collapsed but it felt different so I took it upon myself to find our what was wrong and went to see a cardiologist at the Ulster Clinic.

“All the previous tests that had been carried out on me were not in-depth enough and it wasn’t long until my consultant diagnosed me with Long QT.

“I owe my consultant Gavin Dalzell my life.”

Long QT has many triggers with Lisa’s being exertion.

“My triggers are running and swimming so I can no longer do that but they can also be as simple as a sudden noise such as an alarm clock going off in the morning so we don’t have those in the house.”

With the life-threatening condition being hereditary, Lisa knew when she became pregnant that there was a 50 per cent chance her son would be diagnosed with the same condition. And he was.

However, like Lisa, her son Dan has been on medication to try and control the condition.

Lisa wanted a defibrillator at home to give her some peace of mind.

Lisa and Dan’s chances of survival, if anything were to happen, would rise from six per cent to 75 per cent with the use of a defibrillator.

The defibrillator is in their home and will be available for others to use in an emergency. Lisa says it will be registered with the ambulance service and added to a database of nearest defibrillators.

More and more people are being screened for Long QT which can often go undetected until it is too late.

“When I was first diagnosed and first going to hospital appointments, I was about one of two young people among elderly patients. Whereas now, there are people of all ages.

It is Lisa’s aim that all schools have a defibrillator and she says the schools must ensure it is accessible at all times. She would like to see it being taken out to the sports pitch at every class as “in a life or death situation, time is crucial”.

She is hoping to get defibrillators installed in St Colman’s PS, Annaclone, Abercorn PS in Banbridge and Milltown PS in the near future.

“We are appealing to everyone to help in not only donating but spreading awareness and encouraging the screening of our children.

“We are hoping that parents of children in the above schools will come on board and help us get these schools a defibrillator as soon as possible,” said Lisa.

St Colman’s PS and All Saints Nursery Unit in Annaclone said they were “so very proud” to speak with Lisa and work with her “to ensure that we soon have a defibrillator at school which will benefit all members of the community and make the school a safer place for all”.

At the time of print, £1530 of the £3000 target had been raised. If anyone would like to donate they can do so at

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