A Charity’s Mission to Make Cornwall a ‘HeartSine’ Protected County

From left to right:  RRMC Treasurer Al Williams, RRMC Vice-Chair Liz Williams, RRMC Committee Fundraiser Mary Williams, RRMC Secretary Paul Williams and RRMC Chair John Richards.

From left to right: RRMC Treasurer Al Williams, RRMC Vice-Chair Liz Williams, RRMC Committee Fundraiser Mary Williams, RRMC Secretary Paul Williams and RRMC Chair John Richards.

A local charity in the UK is on “a mission” to ensure every public place in one English county is protected by the presence of a HeartSine Technologies automatic external defibrillator.

Paul Williams from Cornwall, a well known figure in South West England due to his work with the Ronnie Richards Memorial charity (RRMC), says they have been campaigning tirelessly for defibrillators to be placed in locations such as schools, supermarkets and sports clubs across the region.

Paul’s efforts began following a number of personal tragedies within his family and after his research revealed there were no public access defibrillators (PADs) located within Cornwall.

“In 1999, I suffered a very serious sporting accident that nearly cost me my life, and in fact, at one stage I was reported dead. Several years of hospital attendance and 11 operations later, I realise how very lucky I am to be alive.

“My brother-in-law, Ronald ‘Ronnie’ Richards, was not so lucky. After he and my wife supported me through my difficult time, it was a massive blow when Ronnie died suddenly of an undetected heart condition while playing indoor five-a-side football at Penzance Leisure Centre in 2008. Ronnie was a local self-employed carpet fitter who was much admired and greatly respected by all who knew him.

“In August 2009, a year after Ronnie tragically died, I organised a charity six-a-side football tournament and fun day in Ronnie’s memory, with all proceeds raised donated to the British Heart Foundation to fund a 24-hour Electrocardiogram (ECG) machine for the local Marazion Surgery. Without an ECG machine located locally, patients had to endure two forty-mile round trips to Treliske Hospital in Truro—the first to have the machine put on and the second, on the following day, to have it removed.”

The success of the fun day, and a subsequent football tournament in 2010 which raised funds for Cornwall Down’s Syndrome Essential Communication Therapy, inspired Paul to help others even further:

“The Ronnie Richards Memorial Charity was established in March 2011 after two years of fundraising for other charitable causes in Cornwall.

“When the then manager of Penzance Wharfside Shopping Centre, Peter Wood, appealed to the charity for funding of an Automated External Defibrillator (AED), I learned the shocking statistics of Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) deaths. I was stunned to discover that 270 SCA events occur every single day in the UK – and more shockingly, that Cornwall never had a public access heart defibrillator.

“And so the movement began. Defibrillator manufacturer, HeartSine Technologies, donated the very first public AED in the county to football club Penzance AFC during a 2013 RRMC event. We, and of course the public, are very grateful for such a generous donation as this really will protect and perhaps save lives in the future.

“As such, all future funds raised from the Ronnie Richards Memorial Charity annual charity football tournaments will go toward the purchase of HeartSine samaritan 500P AEDs for Cornwall.”

And it’s just not football clubs for which Paul and the charity are fundraising:

“My research has taught me how vital these devices are. When someone suffers a SCA, survival rates are just 5% with Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) alone. But this increases to over 70% when combined with the use of a defibrillator, so the presence of an AED in all public places is essential.

“Cornwall’s future PAD infrastructure will, undoubtedly, be unprecedented.

“We have a fantastic working relationship with the South Western Ambulance Service Trust (SWAST) in England and have just secured a major agreement with Cornwall Fire Brigade to have lifesaving HeartSine equipment at all 31 stations, which will provide AED and CPR training to the public.

“While HeartSine defibrillators talk the first responder through the entire ‘save’ process until medical professionals arrive – making the AEDs extremely easy to use – the training will provide Cornwall residents with the confidence to use an AED by familiarising them with the devices.

“We also have a great relationship with Surf Life Saving Great Britain (SLSGB), and so HeartSine equipment is located on, and training takes place at, every one of its many beaches across the county.

“Furthermore, we recently had a major breakthrough with local schools to obtain and train staff and students on HeartSine devices, notably the Penwith Education Trust, which is the second largest education trust in the UK.  In fact, by the middle of 2014, over 3000 students at three local secondary schools will be trained to use HeartSine defibrillators.”

Paul continued:

“The charity has just received a fantastic commitment from the Co-op Supermarket chain in Cornwall and Devon to fundraise to place HeartSine equipment at all its stores from 2014. This is approximately 150 stores, but I would hope to see the initiative accepted in all its branches across the UK.

“I also continue to get major funding through various important outlets such as city, town and parish councils, Rotary Clubs and Lions Clubs for these essential life saving devices.”

CEO Declan O’Mahoney of HeartSine Technologies said:

“The sheer determination and resolve of Paul and the small, family team at the Ronnie Richards Memorial Charity has been inspirational.

“They are extremely dedicated in their mission to ensure everyone in Cornwall and beyond is protected by the presence of public access defibrillators.

“We didn’t hesitate when we were asked to get involved with the tournament in 2013, especially since it resulted in the presence of the very first PAD in the county. We look forward to working with Paul and the RRMC further.”

Paul says the key to the success so far has been the support he has received from the wider community:

“After losing my brother-in-law, I knew I could make a massive difference to my community if given the chance. I just needed the opportunity to prove it.

“And many people have given me that chance – in particular, HeartSine, the Defib Centre (HeartSine’s local authorized distributor), the South Western Ambulance Service Trust (SWAST) and the Cornishman newspaper for promoting the work of the charity.

“I have been very fortunate that everyone believes in me. We wouldn’t be here today talking about the charity if it weren’t for these companies.

“Despite physical setbacks, doing nothing has never been an alternative.

“At the beginning I spent a lot of my time forming strong relationships with major agencies essential for a sustainable reliable PAD program to work.

“Efforts now lie with expanding upon the initial success of the campaign to make Cornwall the first ‘HeartSine County’.”

For more information on the Ronnie Richards Memorial Charity, please visit http://rrmc.webs.com/.