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Death stalks as defibs are scarce

by Jimmy Rhatigan

A MAN who strolled to his local pub for a pint ended up having life-saving treatment for a possible heart attack.

When it became obvious he was ill, a quick search of nearby shops in a struggle for a defibrillator proved to be negative.

The penny dropped.

Someone said there was a defib outside St John’s Church.

A dash for help and the machine was used as a possible life-saver.

The point?

No matter what you are doing, there is always the possibility, even the probability, that danger lurks.

The unfortunate man who was soon to become a fortunate soul just may owe his life to the fact that a community group had saved up to buy a defibrillator to be used by the general public.

Defib or no defib? 

That is the question that may decide whether the victim of a heart attack or stroke may survive or die.

Yes, we have trained medical personnel and paramedics who do great work on a daily basis.

But, these people cannot be everywhere and whether or not you get lucky when illness strikes could depend on where you keel over.


Super community activist Billy Leahy

There is no guarantee, but a defib can be the difference between a positive newspaper story and an obituary.

Take our St Patrick’s Day Parade for instance. 

A massive crowd, thousands of spectators, everybody going nowhere, babes in arms, excited children.

Then someone becomes ill, falls to the ground and the possibility of panic is high.

To be fair, the parade appeared to be excellently organized but with the best will in the world, it is impossible for any committee to remember all possibilities.

Even the obvious ones that could be life-threatening!

Granted, there may have been first aid on standby and we are assured that ‘some shops’ do have defibs.

Were those shops open on St Patrick’s Day? Or, in the event of our so spectacular night-time fireworks display, were there any shops open?

More importantly, did any shops that may have been open have a defib?

An Emergency Call to St Luke’s General Hospital may have brought a brilliant team of paramedics scurrying to the scene of any incident.

How easy or how long would it have been for an ambulance to wriggle its way through packed streets?


Minutes and indeed seconds may count when a man or a woman’s life is dangling on a string.

Like it or lump it, reality is that if you suffer a heart attack in our city any day or night, there is no guarantee that a defib will be available to help you through a life or death battle.

And, really worrying, is that but for the kindness and ingenuity of a local community group and the civic-spirit of a minority, there would be very few defibs in our greater city area.

Kilkenny Press was told by a member of an active community group that there are defibs in some shops but, and we quote, ‘the major problem is that we don’t know what shops they are in.’

We have since found out that there are defibs outside O’Loughlin Gaels GAA Club and outside Eurospar in Newpark Shopping Centre, both in St John’s Parish, paid for by the GAA club and the local supermarket.

Thanks to the volunteers of St John’s Parish Eastern Environs Defibrillator Group, there are five public defibs in the parish.


These are at Frescho on the Dublin Road, The Orchard Bar and Restaurant, New Orchard, Deputy John McGuinness’s Constituency Office, O’Loughlin Road and at the Castlecomer Road side of James Stephens Military Barracks.

Group members and friends were trained in the use of the defibs.

Ironically, it was the passing of one of St John’s Parish’s favourite sons, Billy Leahy that sparked a campaign to form a committee and to provide the first defib in Billy’s memory.

Regular fundraising, donations, raffles, tea parties and table quizzes ensured that four more were made available at an average cost of €1,600 each, every machine protected from extra heat or cold in the great outdoors.

The committee is Margaret Lanigan, Pat Coonan, Jim Fogarty, Mick Dooley, Sister Kathleen Meagher and Frank Cody.

St John’s, thanks to community-spirited parishioners, appears well catered for.

So how are things when it comes to defibs in St Patrick’s, St Mary’s and St Canice’s Parishes in the city?

If the machines are there and of that we are unsure, then we would be delighted to publish a list of their whereabouts.

If not, thousands of people may be sitting on a time-bomb.

And the sad words ‘If only there was a defib available’ could echo as families mourn the passing of a parent, brother, sister, son or daughter.

Local Authorities, public representatives and communities can all play a role by showing the love in their hearts for our people by providing heart care.

Ignoring public care is to say the least, shameful and negligent.


An Automated External Defibrillator (AED) is a machine that is used to treat cardiac arrest, a life-threatening condition where the heart suddenly stops beating properly. By sending an electric shock to the heart of a person in cardiac arrest, the AED restores a normal heart rhythm.

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