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At the heart of the matter in Beara

April 17th, 2018 7:16 AM

By Southern Star Team

Clockwise from above: Berehaven Defibrillator Group members Brendan Lynch, Breda O'Sullivan, Kathy Lynch and Kathleen Dwyer at one of the defibrillator units in Castletownbere; Brendan Lynch with replacement defibrillator pads. These need to be replaced every time a unit is used; Kathleen Lynch pic

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A voluntary group, responsible for the provision of 30 defibrillators across the Beara Peninsula, is seeking new trainees as well as public support to fund maintenance of the machines, writes Helen Riddell

The Berehaven Defibrillator Group, which is affiliated with the Bantry branch of the Irish Red Cross, looks after the maintenance of defibrillators on Beara, with machines located in Ardgroom, Eyeries, Urhan, Kilcatherine, Bere Island, Castletownbere and Rossmacowen.  

Kathleen Dwyer, secretary for the group, said that each year the group has to fundraise to replace pads and batteries for the units. ‘Last year we replaced five batteries.  Each one costs €295. We also replaced three sets of pads at a total cost of just over €1,650. An unexpected expense we have had recently was the need to replace all the keys in the break glass units, as we were concerned that they were showing signs of corrosion.’

Whilst the remoteness of the Beara Peninsula is one of its main attractions to visitors and residents alike, in a medical emergency, its distance from the nearest hospital can literally be a life and death issue, with the nearest 24-hour emergency department being in Cork University Hospital – two hours away by road.

In the case of a cardiac event, it is vital that resuscitation is started within the first few minutes to increase the chances of survival. In 2007, 38 volunteers came together to form the Eyeries Parish Defibrillator Group to fundraise for defibrillators in the Eyeries area and to train people in CPR and the use of defibrillators.

The volunteers were trained up with the assistance of HSE ambulance personnel Raymond McCarthy and Noel Murphy, and following public consultation the group decided to become part of the Irish Red Cross. Following intensive fundraising the group were able to purchase their first  defibrillators, and CPR training mannequins.  Successive fundraising enabled the purchase of five more defibrillators, which were positioned in Ardgroom, Urhan, Eyeries, Kilcatherine and Kilmacowen. By the following year, defibrillator groups had also been set up in Adrigole and Allihies.

Allihies now has six defibrillators, and Adrigole has seven located throughout the parish. By March 2009, all local defibrillator groups in Beara decided to join Eyeries in becoming part of the Irish Red Cross, and form one main group for the area – Berehaven Red Cross.  The group also made a decision to join with Bantry Red Cross. Kathleen explains that ‘we felt this was the only way we could ensure that we kept the existing defibrillators in service and maintained.  Jonathan Tyner from the Bantry branch has been particularly helpful to us.’

Kathleen outlined how since the beginning they have had a huge amount of local support. ‘Evie Quinn allowed the  Eyeries group to store all the equipment and for practice to be held in her hall in Eyeries; private householders allowed the defibrillators to be sited on their property; business premises acted as key holders; Brian Boss O’Sullivan painted all our advertising signs, and we had very generous financial support from the Eyeries parish, which included two local residents Ger Lynch and Peter Elphick who did a fundraising skydive.’

In 2010 Kathy Lynch was appointed training officer for Berehaven Red Cross, and monthly training sessions now alternate between Eyeries National School and MacCarthy’s Bar, Castletownbere. A training module is also now part of the transition year programme at Scoil Phobail Bheara.  

In 2011 two additional defibrillators were bought for the area, one for Rossmacowen, with funds raised by Anam Cara Writers & Artists’ Retreat Centre through their Friday Night in Eyeries session, and a further defibrillator for Bere Island from a private donation. 

Each device is checked regularly by a group of volunteers, and in 2012 a decision was taken that to ensure access to the defibrillators at all times with ‘in case of emergency break glass units’ added to all the machines.  The cost of this was facilitated with a social evening and raffle held in Causkey’s Bar, Eyeries.

This Saturday, April 7th the group will be holding its main fundraising event of the year – a walk from Ardgroom to Bere Island. The walk leaves Ardgroom at 9am, walking to Eyeries, onto Castletownbere, catching the west end ferry to Bere Island, then walking across the island and returning on the east end ferry.  Kathleen thanked all the local businesses who support them on the walk each year: Causkey’s Bar, Eyeries, the Hotel Bere Island, and Lawrence Cove Lodge who all provide refreshments, and both island ferries for covering the fares for all walkers. 

Anyone who is interested in helping with fundraising or who would like to attend a training course can contact Kathy on 087 6933221.

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