Two brothers from Caithness had reason to thank their lucky stars last week when they were delivering a vanload of defibrillators from a Skye charity to salmon farms in Orkney and Shetland.
Gerry Paul (52) is originally from Halkirk and has known Lucky2BHere founder Ross Cowie for a number of years. On Friday 21st January he agreed to collect what he thought were a few batteries for defib devices while on Skye to visit his son, Scott, who has a house in Waternish.
With Gerry was his older brother, Johnny, who is 61 and who suffered a heart attack after they had driven back to Caithness.
Gerry, who lives in Lerwick in the Shetland Isles, told the Free Press: “When we got in to Portree on the Friday and went to see Ross there was nine large boxes at the top of the stairs, not three batteries. We had a bit of laugh about it and I said it was lucky I have a big van. Anyway, we went to Waternish and we stayed all weekend.
“That was the first time we ever travelled together, even though my brother has been doing up my son’s house. We usually travel in separate vehicles. That was the first lucky thing to happen, and then the defibs themselves that I had no idea I was meant to be taking back.”
“So, on the Sunday, we were late leaving Waternish and I said we would be too late for me to get to our mother’s in Halkirk so can I stay with you at your mother-in-law’s in Lybster?”
Brother Johnny – a fit non-smoker – told the Free Press that when they got in it was half past ten.
“And my mother in law is old school, so there was stew and potatoes for us, so we ate that. And then later I felt uncomfortable but I put it down to having eaten a meal so late.
“I got up to go to the toilet and it was then that I thought oh no, this is much stronger, the pain in my left arm, shoulder, bicep and elbow, and I couldn’t feel my fingers because of pins and needles. I had this overwhelming desire to be sick, and that’s when I knew then there was something not right and we phoned 999.
“They said if you have a defibrillator, use it, but if not then keep an eye on the individual and be prepared to administer CPR. Then Gerry remembered ‘Hang on I’ve got a van full!’
“So he opened one up and strapped it on.”
Gerry said: “It was brand new so I had to take it out of its box and put in the battery pack to make it work, then attach it to my brother and listen to it start up. This was the first time I have ever done that, even though I have taken a lot of this stuff back up the road to Orkney and Shetland over the last three or four years.”
Gerry said the sheer presence of the defib was “massively calming” for Johnny, who had stopped working at Dounreay recently and was due to start a new job near Oxford, where he has a permanent home with wife Elaine, son John and daughter Amber.
“Lying there with the machine was very reassuring because I could hear it saying ‘monitoring…no shock required’, and it was repeating that cycle every couple of minutes until the ambulance arrived,” added Johnny.
Johnny was taken to hospital in Wick at about 6.30am on Monday 24th January and then on to Raigmore in Inverness, where he was fitted with five stents on Tuesday. He is currently recovering at home in Grove, near Oxford.
Gerry added: “I jokingly said to our mum, I fell in a river in Bettyhill when I was five or six years old and my brother, who is nine years older, saved me. He stopped me from drowning so I have paid him back.”
Lucky2BHere founder Ross Cowie added: “We have had a lot of good outcomes over the years. Covid has interrupted our training in schools. The more defibs we put out then the more they can play a part in saving lives. I am delighted Johnny is alive and well to tell the tale.”