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Wednesday 22 August 2018

'In 25 years I have never seen a child collapse like that' - Principal who saved boy (9) hits out at lack of defibrillators

Boy's life was saved by defibrillator donated to GAA club by the Apache pizza company

Tim O'Tuachaigh principal at Gaelscoil Ros Eo Photo: Mark Condren
Tim O'Tuachaigh principal at Gaelscoil Ros Eo Photo: Mark Condren
Conor Feehan

Conor Feehan

A Dublin boy who collapsed in school and was kept alive by quick-thinking staff using a defibrillator from the local GAA club is now back at home and making a recovery following surgery.

The nine-year-old dropped to the ground in Gaelscoil Ros Eo in Rush in north county Dublin on September 4.

Parents and staff have credited the actions of quick-thinking principal Tim O Tuachaigh for keeping the boy stable until the emergency services arrived.

Mr O Tuachaigh has now stepped up his campaign to have one of the life-saving defibrillator devices installed in every school in the country, and is critical of the Department of Education for saying the responsibility of providing such equipment lies with each school’s board of management, and not the Department.

He said the only reason they were able to lay their hands on a defibrillator was because the GAA club next door has one that was donated by the Apache pizza company.

At lunchtime on September 4, the 212 pupils and 12 staff were just settling into the new school year routine when the nine-year-old boy in 4th class collapsed in the yard.

“He said to the lad next to him ‘I feel heavy’ and crumpled to the ground,” Mr O Tuachaigh told the Herald.

“At first I thought the lad had got a knock to the head while playing, but he was totally unresponsive and his breathing was bad, and it became obvious very quickly that he needed CPR, which I started straight away.

“We rang for an ambulance, and I don’t remember telling anyone to get the defibrillator from St Maur’s Club next to us, but I’ve been told since that I did,” added the avid GAA player.

“I’ve never seen a defibrillator up close before, and have no training in how to use one, but when we opened up this one it told us exactly what to do and we just followed the instructions,” he explained.

“Three fire brigades and an ambulance arrived 25 minutes later, and the crews told us that if we had not done what we did it could have been a different outcome,” he said.

The boy was stabilised and brought to hospital and has since undergone surgery.

He is now back at home recovering as his family try to get their heads around what has happened.

“This lad is as fit as a fiddle. He plays sports, he’s active, he’s not carrying any weight, and in 25 years of teaching I have never seen a child collapse like that,” said Mr O Tuachaigh.

“But now I realise the importance of being prepared, and part of that is having a defibrillator in every school in the country.

“I have a nine year old son myself. I'd hate to think somebody could be standing over him in the same situation and have nothing to work with.

“Some schools have defibrillators because they fundraised for them or had them donated, but it is vital that every school has one,” he added.

“I’ve done a few calculations and at around €1,500 for a unit with training it would cost around €6m to cover every school. That’s not a huge amount of money for a government and these devices will save lives,” he explained.

The Department of Education has told the Herald the board of management is charged with the direct governance of a school.

“The decision to install a defibrillator is made at school level and is a matter for the board of management of each individual school,” said a department spokeswoman.

But Mr O Tuachaigh said that while true that the governance of a school is board of management business the Department of Education does not provide funds for the installation of a defibrillator.

“So while any board can make the decision it is the Government that fund the schools so therefor it is they that would have to provide the schools with the money needed,” he said.

In a statement the Department of Health said that work is being done to on the issue.

"There is a considerable amount of work being undertaken within the health service to to improve survival rates for those who suffer an out of hospital cardiac arrest through the development and implementation of an out of hospital cardiac arrest strategy.

"The Minister for Health fully supports the roll out of this important programme and would like to see defibrillators available in as many locations as possible.

"It is a matter for school boards of managements to decide on provision of defibrillators within their schools."


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