Defibrillators become festive gifts

Staff at a medical technology company have been handed an unusual Christmas present from their bosses – a defibrillator.

Each member of the 120-plus workforce at HeartSine Technologies has been given one of the life-saving devices as a seasonal gift.

The employees with the Belfast-based firm can decide whether to donate their automated external defibrillator (AED) to an organisation in their community or keep it so they can use it in any potential medical emergencies they might encounter.

HeartSine Technologies is the only manufacturer of automated defibrillators in the UK and Ireland.

The company’s workforce is spread across Ireland with employees also based in central Europe and the USA. Around 100 staff are based in Belfast.

Chief executive Declan O’Mahoney said the gesture was part of the drive to increase public access to the life-saving devices.

He noted that sudden cardiac arrests (SCA) killed approximately seven million people globally each year.

“There are more people that die each year from sudden cardiac arrest than from fire, yet it is a legal requirement for public buildings to be equipped with fire extinguishers but not with defibrillators that can increase SCA survival rates from less than 5% to more than 70%,” he said.

“This, however, is not something that will happen overnight and in the meantime SCA fatalities that could have been prevented with a defibrillator will continue to happen to men, women and children of all ages and fitness or health levels across the world.

“It is therefore crucial that public access to these devices is increased significantly, and the gifting of defibrillators to our employees is one small step in the right direction.

“It is also an opportunity to thank all of our employees, who are based all over the island of Ireland, Central Europe and the United States, for their continued hard work, and to provide each employee and their families, friends and local communities with the best possible chance of survival should an SCA event occur.

“We wanted to stay away from the usual sorts of gifts such as chocolates, wine or vouchers and gift our employees with something really special and significant, and there’s nothing more special or significant than saving a life. The gift of life is really a present that can’t be surpassed.”

Mr O’Mahoney said the AEDs could be operated by “absolutely anyone”.

“I urge members of the public not only to familiarise themselves with the location of AEDs within their community – at a local school, the gym or their place of work – but also to be assured that HeartSine defibrillators can be used by absolutely anyone should someone in their company or close proximity collapse with no apparent heartbeat,” he said.