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Belfast Live
Belfast Live
Sophie McLaughlin

Ballymena mum donates five defibrillators after cardiac arrest changed her life

On the year anniversary of surviving a sudden cardiac arrest, Sinead Connolly set out to raise enough money to buy a defibrillator for the shop that she and her "hero" husband Connor ran.

The mother of four from Ballymena described herself as “fit and healthy” when she suffered a cardiac arrest in October 2020 when she was just 48 years old.

Speaking to Belfast Live previously, Sinead said: "On the 28th of October last year I suffered a Cardiac Arrest. Prior to this, I was fit and healthy and never had any symptoms of anything untoward.

"It came from absolutely nowhere. Thanks to my husband's quick actions, the ambulance service and the rapid response team getting to me on time and using a defibrillator, I have been able to make a full recovery."

Sinead was diagnosed with Sudden Death Syndrome, a diagnosis that can often come all too late for those who may not be near an essential piece of kit when their heart stops with no warning.

In order to turn what was a traumatic experience for her and her family into something positive, her family marked the anniversary to benefit the local community by holding a 12-hour spin cycle event in their store in October last year to raise funds to purchase a defibrillator that could go on to save more lives like hers.

Sinead commented: "What happened to me could happen to anyone and over 90% of people who have a cardiac arrest do not survive it. I didn’t know I had this condition until my heart stopped, and I was just so lucky to be in the back of an ambulance when it happened after deteriorating throughout the day and the quick thinking of my husband.

"I was shocked with the defib, they got me back and I spent three weeks in hospital having an Ablation procedure to fix the electrical fault in my heart."

Sinead's story had resonated with the community so much so that they not only raised enough for their own Automated External Defibrillators (AED) at their store, Connollys Spar & Off Sales, they raised enough to donate four others throughout the community.

Sinead continued: "We have donated defibrillators to the SureStart Playgroup and The Harmony Hub in Ballymena, Healthy Kidz in Portadown, and one has also gone to the All Saints Youth Club which provides so many programmes for young people, as well as a space for the Geraldine Donnelly School of Irish Dancing and the All Saints Boxing Club.

"Then of course the fifth is installed outside our store and available to the community 24/7. We hope that these defibrillators never need to be used, however it is so important that people in our local community know they are there should they need them for a colleague, friend or family member."

Some of the funds will also go towards providing CPR training for those in the community and the in-store team.

The AEDs are user friendly, and will be registered with The Circuit, the new National Defibrillator Network launched by the British Heart Foundation in partnership with the NHS, Microsoft and UK Ambulance Services to connect every device to its local ambulance service and the public, enabling even faster response times and more lives saved.

Bronagh Luke from the Henderson Group who spearheaded the SPAR NI’s Heart of the Community campaign said: "Sinead and Conor run a store that is central to their community and the sheer outpouring of generosity from their shoppers and supporters for their fundraising is testament to that.

"Unfortunately, our defibrillators have been used more than we would like, however they have saved the lives of 13 people that we’re aware of across Northern Ireland, so our campaign is a vital one which raises awareness for everyone in knowing those devices are available to them locally, as well as saving lives.

"We were so relieved to hear Sinead made a full recovery and is continuing to thrive with her family and business in Dunclug."

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