OPINION: 1000 reasons to be grateful to defibrillator and emergency training charity which started in Skye

Ross Cowie, founder of the Lucky2BHere charity Pic Willie Urquhart

The story is a familiar one to regulars readers of this newspaper but that should not stop us once again from offering our congratulations to the remarkable Skye charity Lucky2BHere.

The organisation has just delivered its 1000th defibrillator – appropriately enough at a theatre in Paisley named PACE.

Speedy intervention in medical emergencies is the charity’s underlying mission, and in little over a decade and-a-half the cause has grown to become Scotland’s number one provider of public access defibrillators and emergency life support training.

The founder of the charity, Ross Cowie, initially wanted to raise enough money to place a defibrillator in the Skye Camanachd clubhouse where, in December 2006, he suffered a cardiac arrest.

In just about every conceivable circumstance that incident would have claimed his life. Fortunately for Ross an ambulance happened to be passing nearby, carrying the life-saving expertise and equipment he needed to survive. 

Given that cardiac problems can happen to anyone, in any place and at any time, it was obvious to Ross that not everyone would be so lucky as to have a trained medical crew on scene within a couple of minutes.

The charity was born from a simple, but logical idea.

The more machines there are to help restart hearts, and the more people that are trained in how to use these defibrillators and their associated emergency life support skills, the higher the survival chances for those unfortunate to suffer from a cardiac arrest.

The research bore this out.

In countries like Denmark, where defibrillators are distributed in public places and where CPR training is mandatory in schools, the chances of surviving an out of hospital cardiac arrest were one in four, at a time when in Scotland they were one in 20.

Thanks to the work of charities like Lucky2bHere – which has delivered training and equipment from Shetland to Dumfries and everywhere in between – the gap is no longer so stark. 

The charity has proved its worth on many occasions, helping save lives like Gaelic singer Donar MacIver, when he collapsed while performing in Poolewe Hall in 2016, or Michelle MacLeod, who suffered a cardiac arrest during a marathon in Harris in 2019.

It will no doubt save many more, but as they mark the presentation of a 1000th defibrillator, the charity continues to campaign for emergency life support training to be included in the curriculum for every school in Scotland.

Despite many pledges from politicians, this ambition is still to be achieved.

It was recently reported that over 1,000 Scottish schools lacked defibrillators, despite all English schools now being equipped with the lifesaving devices.

The government and local authorities owe it to organisations like Lucky2bHere to honour their pledges after a truly remarkable national campaign which started right here on Skye. 

The Editorial appeared in the West Highland Free Press on 16th February 2024