BY KEITH MACKENZIE
A Wester Ross man has spoken out in praise of the medical marvels who rushed to his aid after he collapsed while singing at a family ceilidh earlier this year.
Donar MacIver suffered a cardiac arrest while on stage in Poolewe Village Hall on the 8th of January. But the quick intervention of medical personnel in the audience and, crucially, the availability of an onsite emergency heart start machine saved his life.
Almost two months on — and thanks to an internal defibrillator he’s had fitted to regulate the rhythm of his heart — Donar is edging back to health. But the 64-year-old Mòd medallist admits he wouldn’t be here to tell the tale, were it not for the speedy first aid and the presence of a defibrillator which the community had secured from the Skye-based Lucky2bHere charity.
“I had everything I needed right there in the hall that night — it was a fantastic response,” said Donar, a council grounds worker and crofter from Naast, who had never experienced any signs of heart trouble before his sudden collapse.
Speaking to the Free Press this week, he added: “I had always been quite healthy. Even that night I felt fine. I had been singing as well as acting as the fear an taighe (Master of Ceremonies). The day of the concert I had been out working at the cows as normal.”
Luckily for the popular singer, when he took ill help was quickly at hand.
Off-duty ambulance technician Johnathan MacLennan, along with trained nurse Maureen Cumming and local firefighter Michael MacLean, helped to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation. Anna MacIver, a community mental health support worker, then used the defibrillator to help ‘shock’ Mr MacIver’s heart into rhythm before the ambulance arrived to take him to hospital in Inverness.
He added: “I wouldn’t be alive if it wasn’t for these people. The surgeon told me if it had happened to me in my sleep I’d have died, and I wouldn’t have known a thing about it.”
Mr MacIver also reserved praise for Skyeman Ross Cowie, who founded the Lucky2bHere charity over eight years ago. In December 2006 Mr Cowie suffered a cardiac arrest and was saved only by the fact that an ambulance was passing nearby. He began fundraising to install an emergency defibrillator in the Skye Camanachd clubhouse in Portree where he had collapsed. And since then the campaign has provided nearly 200 defibrillators, as well emergency life support training, at various locations throughout Scotland. The defibrillator in Poolewe had been secured through Lucky2bHere in 2014.
Donar added: “I’m so grateful for his efforts. It’s something I had never thought of before. But if that defibrillator wasn’t there in the hall that night, I wouldn’t be speaking to you today.
“It’s pleasing to see the local fundraising and the efforts people are putting in to get more of these machines installed locally — I know now just how important they can be.”
Following his cardiac arrest Donar’s recovery was slowed when he landed back in hospital after contracting pneumonia and a respiratory virus. But he’s hopeful that it won’t be too long before he’s back in the fields tending to his herd of cattle.
Thanks to the wonders of modern science Donar’s internal defibrillator can be controlled and monitored remotely by experts in Berlin — the same procedure which also helped Ross Cowie.
Mr Cowie said the Poolewe incident had been a terrific example of why Lucky2bHere had been formed.
He added: “It was half past 11 on a Friday night in Poolewe. Bearing in mind that survival chances are reduced by 10 per cent with every minute that passes, you would not survive a cardiac arrest there unless you had immediate CPR and a defibrillator present.
“It’s a brilliant story and ticks all the boxes for what Lucky2bHere is all about.
“It shows, too, why we want to see emergency life support skills taught in every school in Scotland.”