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Little girl's death motivates defibrillator campaign

A SEVEN-YEAR-OLD girl who died when her heart stopped on a class day out has inspired a campaign to equip all schools with life-saving defibrillators.

It was only after Becky Whelan's death last June that her parents, Vincent and Brigid-Ann, discovered she was suffering from a rare heart condition called Long QT Syndrome.

Becky, from Carrick-on-Suir, Co Waterford, was just minutes from a hospital when the incident occurred, but it wasn't close enough to save her.

Now her family is urging all schools to make the life-saving device a must-have.

Becky's old school, Crehana, outside Carrick-on-Suir, is one of six in the area that now have defibrillators and staff are being trained in their use.

Becky's aunt, Breda Fitzgerald, is principal of one of those schools, Newtown Upper, and raised the issue at the Irish National Teachers Organisation conference, where she was a delegate.

"Becky was engaged in low-level physical activity when her heart stopped and sadly she didn't recover," Ms Fitzgerald said. "She was in Waterford city and only three minutes from the hospital. The teachers reacted straight away."

After Becky's death, the family made contact with footballer Seaghan Kearney, whose life was saved by a defibrillator at his GAA club and who is now raising awareness on the issue.

Although defibrillators cost about €1,200 to buy, schools can trade 250 mobile phones for one under the FONES4LIFe recycling initiative.

Ms Fitzgerald said the six schools had no difficulty collecting phones, but she would like the Department of Education to fund the purchase of defibrillators.

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