Cardiac arrest survivor welcomes 11 new defibrillators to Stirling campus

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Pictured left to right: Kevin McIntosh, Eilidh Watson, Finlay Richardson, Gareth Allen and Graeme Young.

A cardiac arrest survivor has praised University of Stirling staff who used a defibrillator to save his life – and has revealed his “absolute delight” at 11 new medical devices being introduced to campus.

Finlay Richardson, keen footballer and lacrosse player, was just 20 years old and a third-year student at Stirling when he collapsed during an evening training session on the University’s sports pitches.

As he lay unresponsive on the pitch, concerned lacrosse teammates alerted sports centre staff who arrived on the scene moments later. Gareth Allen, Conor Kerr, Kevin McIntosh and Eilidh Watson – one of Finlay’s friends – carried out cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and used the sports centre defibrillator to administer shocks in a bid to save his life.

“The staff were brilliant and gave me CPR while the defibrillator started up,” Finlay explained. “They shocked me once, did more CPR, and then shocked me again two or three more times. I think the paramedics also used their defibrillator on me and it was in that moment that I came round.”

Finlay was taken to Forth Valley Royal Hospital in Larbert, where he was diagnosed with a dilated cardiomyopathy – a condition where the left ventricle is enlarged and weakened, reducing the heart’s ability to pump blood. He was in hospital for two-and-a-half weeks and fitted with an implantable defibrillator as a precaution.

After making a full recovery from the incident in February 2016, Finlay graduated with a first-class honours degree in Environmental Science last summer – a success he describes as his “proudest achievement”.

The 23-year-old returned to the University this week to thank staff and paramedics who saved his life – and welcome the installation of the new defibrillators.

Eilidh Watson, Finlay Richardson, Gareth Allan with new defibrillators

Sports centre staff Eilidh Watson and Gareth Allen pictured with former student Finlay Richardson (middle).

“It is really scary to think that, if this had happened to me somewhere else, there’s a chance that I wouldn’t be here anymore,” Finlay said. “I was fortunate that there was a defibrillator at the sports centre and the staff – and the paramedics – had the skills and expertise to save my life.

“It is impossible for me to put into words how grateful I am to everybody who was involved that day.”

The new defibrillators were introduced as part of an initiative led by the University’s Safety, Environment and Continuity department. Twenty defibrillators are now located across campus, with six at University residences (Alexander Court, Andrew Stewart Hall, Beech Court, John Forty Court, Spittal Hill, Union Street); five at the sports facilities (Alangrange strength and conditioning suite, Craig Gowans Football Centre, gym, swimming pool and golf pavilion); and others in the campus security car; the library, Macrobert Centre; and property management offices. Another is due to be installed at Pathfoot Building.

Two devices are held by Airthrey Park Medical Practice (doctors, dentist), while the sports laboratory in Cottrell Building and the Union football team have one each.

All of the defibrillators will be registered with the Scottish Ambulance Service for public access, which will allow emergency call handlers to guide callers to the nearest available defibrillator in the event of a cardiac arrest.

“I am absolutely delighted that the University is introducing these new defibrillators – I speak from personal experience when I say that they can make a vital difference,” Finlay added.

“Before I suffered a cardiac arrest, I had never really thought about defibrillators – but now I’m well aware of their importance. Every time I pass one, I make sure to get my photo taken next to it – to raise awareness around their use because, in my opinion, they are so underappreciated.

“I would love to see more rolled out across Scotland – and further afield – to ensure that this critical resource is available to everybody, no matter where they take ill.”

Graeme Young, Accommodation Operations Manager at the University of Stirling, said: “I’m really pleased that the University has recognised the benefits of having defibrillators in and around campus and our residences.
“They provide a much-needed reassurance to students, staff and the general public that, in the event of a cardiac arrest, we are well equipped with the necessary tools to provide the greatest chance of survival.”

Finlay, originally from Edinburgh and now living in Stirling, is returning to the University to work on a PhD with his dissertation supervisor Dr Andre Gilburn.

Background information

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