In our third edition of our "7 Questions" series, we chat to Olympian and defibshop Ambassador Zoe Gillings-Brier as she shares her views on cardiac arrest, cardiac screening for athletes and paediatric First Aid - a topic particularly close to her heart since recently becoming a mum.
Below we share the questions defibshop.co.uk posed to Zoe which taps into how she became aware of cardiac arrest, why she reached out to defibshop.co.uk and why she felt it necessary to become First Aid trained before the arrival of her daughter Léa.
- What was it that raised your awareness of Sudden Cardiac Arrest and the dangers surrounding it?
Zoe: "I’d seen it on the news and read about how Sudden Cardiac Arrest had been affecting other athletes whilst they were participating in the sports they love. Only then did I realise that it can affect anyone, regardless of whether you’re an Olympic athlete or not.
"From this, I started thinking; I wouldn’t dream of training without a helmet, I take all the necessary precautions to ensure my spine is protected when I compete, so why would I not protect my heart with a defibrillator?
"It was then that I took the decision to add a defibrillator to my first aid kit and get me and my team trained; that way we’re as prepared as possible if anything were to happen."
- What made you want to reach out to defibshop and become equipped with a life-saving defibrillator?
Zoe: "The simple fact that no one is immune to Sudden Cardiac Arrest is what made me reach out to defibshop to learn more about how I could make a difference and protect myself and my team.
"Now, I carry an AED everywhere I go when I’m training and I even carry paediatric pads in my carry case, just in case a child were to suffer a Sudden Cardiac Arrest. In an emergency situation we’d be confident in helping with the life-saving shock and the CPR needed too, thanks to defibshop and imperative training’s expert training.
"The message defibshop conveys in their day-to-day work is amazing. To be able to help raise awareness with them for such an important cause definitely gives me a huge sense of pride."
- What changes would you like to see over the next few years in regards to defibrillators and testing?
Zoe: "I’d love to see more defibrillators in sports, training centres and also have more mandatory testing to alert athletes who are at risk and to raise awareness.
"To have defibrillators readily available at the 2018 Pyongyang Winter Olympics would be amazing. In sports you lay everything on the line, push yourself to the max to be the best and obviously there are risks which come with this. Having the tests in place prior to the athlete competing and a defibrillator ready for use would minimise these risks significantly and would provide athletes and their coaches with extra peace of mind whilst competing at such a high level."
- Hot topic at the moment: do you think CPR and awareness of AEDs should be incorporated into the National Curriculum?
Zoe: "Absolutely, yes. Children are vulnerable to sudden cardiac arrest just as much as anyone else and at school they are also at risk of commotio cordis which can occur during the playing of sports. Having an AED on school sites would not only protect the children, but would also protect the school’s staff too.
"The use of a defibrillator and effective CPR is the only definitive treatment for sudden cardiac arrest, so the more schools that have the both of these in practice and are teaching these skills, the better."
- As a new mum, are you more aware of the availability of defibrillators and first aid trained staff within schools and nurseries?
Zoe: "Yes, extremely. I find whenever I pop to the shops or have a day out with my family I’m always looking out for the nearest defibrillator – and it’s quite shocking still how many places are still without one!
"I was extremely lucky to be trained in Paediatric First Aid with imperative training and defibshop before giving birth to Léa, a skill I think is so important for all parents to gain. Having this skill makes me feel so much more confident and aware of the potential dangers we’re faced with everyday. I wouldn’t feel confident leaving my daughter in the care of someone who wasn’t first aid trained."
- Do you think enough precautions are put in place to protect athletes against sudden cardiac arrest when training/competing?
Zoe: "Currently, no, I don’t think there are enough precautions in place. You can never be too safe in my opinion. There needs to be more awareness on the effects of sudden cardiac arrest I think, a lot of athletes don’t know what it is or the difference between SCA or a heart attack. People need to realise that no one is immune and it can happen to anyone at any time and in any place.
"Many athletes have been affected by SCA. Some giving it their all for the gold in a competition and others training to win a spot on the team, and so everyone must take as many precautions as they can to minimise the risks of SCA when training and competing. Not only the athletes, but the coaches, the country teams and the training and competition hosts too. They all need to think of every possible scenario and cover it to the best of their abilities."
- How do you plan on raising awareness of cardiac arrest in the hope of making a difference?
Zoe: "I’m going to continue carrying my AED everywhere I go with me - you never know when you’re going to need it. I’m going to be keeping my eye out too for AEDs when I’m out and about with my family and I’ll be continuing to work with defibshop, spreading the word on the vital importance of public access AEDs and how important they are in day-to-day life.
"I hope by doing this that more places will catch on to the vitality of having one of these machines as well as the importance of gaining life-saving first aid skills to protect those around them as well as their family, just as I have."