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The importance of defibrillators: 'If the paramedics hadn't shocked Violet she wouldn't have made it'

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Jayne Biggs

Jayne Biggs, who has set up Heart 2 Heart Norfolk, talks about the importance of defibrillators....

Our daughter Violet suffered a sudden cardiac arrest when she was seven-years-old on 23rd February 2013 in her sleep.

I heard her cough upstairs, and it was fate I believe that I went to check on her. What faced me was the most horrendous situation ever - Violet had totally stopped breathing.

I started CPR instantly, whilst screaming for my husband. He took over CPR from me, whilst I dialled 999. My husband and I performed CPR on Violet for seven minutes and that is when the paramedics got to our home. As they entered Violet's bedroom she was in full VF, which means no signs of life at all.

The paramedics shocked her with a defibrillator and performed CPR for a further two minutes and she came back to us. We were taken to James Paget University Hospital where the crash team were all waiting. I can't praise the staff and paramedics enough. We were then told we were being transferred to Great Ormond Street Hospital, as Violet had suffered a sudden cardiac arrest. Even through all this, we thought she had choked on sick, never ever expected to be told that.

Violet is fit, active, no one in our family has ever smoked, we eat well, but that just goes to show it can happen to anyone, at any age. We then spent nearly a month in GOSH, where they diagnosed Violet with Long QT Syndrome and she would have to have an ICD implanted, so that if her heart went out of rhythm ever again it would shock her back, it was life changing.

We are now three years on and Violet is 10 years old, she has coped brilliantly. It's not been easy, by no means. There are activities she can't take part in at school, including contact sports, keeping electronic equipment a certain distance from her, basically learning to live with the device inside her. She also can't be scanned at airports and has to be careful in shop doorways where security systems are in place. Violet takes beta blockers and when she is 15 she will need the whole ICD device changed, as the wires will be too short to her heart, due to her growing.

I always say life will never be normal, it's just a different normal.

If the paramedics hadn't shocked Violet with the defibrillator she wouldn't have made it. If you suffer a sudden cardiac arrest your chances of survival with no CPR is 5%, with CPR it's 9%, but with CPR a defibrillator and a shockable rhythm your chances are over 50%. Obviously I raise all the money on my own and want to place as many defibrillators as possible in our local Norfolk schools, clubs and external places.

So if anyone could ever help with fundraising or want me to help their school raise money for a defibrillator to be placed, please get in contact with me. I don't just place them, I also offer CPR and defibrillator training, which is run by a local paramedic team, who do this for free.  We are truly blessed that Violet survived and I think that every day.

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