The town’s MP has thrown his weight behind a father’s campaign to make defibrillators mandatory in schools.
Mark King is fighting to change the law after his 12-year-old son Oliver sadly died of a cardiac arrest at school. Little known to his family, the boy suffered a condition called Sudden Arrhythmic Death Syndrome, a hidden condition which kills 12 young people every week.
Mark said, “He was a keen and talented sportsman with an uncompromising zest for life. We weren’t prepared for the devastation that was about to unfold.”
Oliver’s heart stopped during a swimming race at school. It took 24 minutes for an ambulance to arrive and tragically he did not make it.
Hoping no one else would have to go through this, his family launched the Oliver King Foundation in his memory, and it has to date installed 2,000 defibrillators in schools across the country. Since 2012, the charity has saved 25 lives – five since just last Christmas.
Mark said, “We are calling for legislation for when you see a fire extinguisher, we want a defib above it. It can be stopped in this day and age, with the advances in technology.
“We will come to each school to install the equipment and train five members of staff to use it. I haven’t asked the government to pay for it, just legislate it.”
Mark’s hope is that by what would have been Oliver’s 21st birthday in 2020 there will be legislation in place to make the lifesaving equipment compulsory in schools.
The charity’s goal is also to raise awareness for Sudden Arrythmic Death Syndrome. Mark said he noticed Oliver had breathlessness when doing exercise but his GP said it was asthma.
The dad said, “I could have kicked myself. You’d think cardiac arrests just happen to the older community. This idea has got to stop. There’s so many more to be saved.”
Eastbourne and Willingdon MP Stephen Lloyd is backing the campaign. He said, “One of the hardest things I think anyone can ever experience must be as a parent losing a child. Almost beyond words.
“Last week in parliament I asked the education minister whether his department would commit to putting a defibrillator in every school. I did so because only a few weeks ago I met the father of a young lad called Oliver King whose son had a heart attack, suddenly, whilst at school.
“Expert medical advice says many young lives could be saved if this simple, low cost appliance was available and a few people trained how to use it. The minister didn’t commit to every school but he did promise to pursue the matter. I will keep on the case.”
This comes as Eastbourne’s Heart Beat Campaign is also fighting to get defibrillators available in schools and public places.
Alan Shuttleworth, Chair of the Eastbourne Defibrillator Partnership, said, “The Partnership is encouraging local schools to have a defibrillator as sadly heart problems can affect people of all ages. We would like the Government to provide a defibrillator for all schools. If just one young life is saved that would make it all worthwhile.”
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And to find out more about Oliver King, click here.