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Gallacher asks golf to ‘Help save lives’

Bernard Gallacher, the former European Ryder Cup captain who suffered a sudden cardiac arrest in August, had launched the Bernard Gallacher Defibrillator Campaign for 2014

Bernard Gallacher has launched a nationwide campaign which could potentially help to save the lives of golfers of all abilities and ages. Drawing on his own personal experience of suffering a sudden cardiac arrest on August 28, the former Ryder Cup captain was joined by a gallery of friends and colleagues from the world of sport and show business at Wentworth Club in December to activate the Bernard Gallacher Defibrillator Campaign 2014.

It was only thanks to the availability of an automated external defibrillator (AED) following his collapse during a dinner reception in Aberdeen, along with early-response CPR treatment at the venue, that Gallacher was able to regain consciousness and take steps towards a full recovery.

However, that close brush with death inspired Gallacher and his wife, Lesley, to announce plans to lead a campaign for AEDs to be widely available in every single golf club and driving range in the United Kingdom and Ireland.

With the Gallachers’ profile and encouragement, allied to a fundraising campaign being run concurrently with the PGA and Arrhythmia Alliance – the heart rhythm charity – an estimated 2,600 golfing venues and around four million club golfers could benefit from the campaign.

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“I consider myself incredibly fortunate that a defibrillator was on hand in Aberdeen to resuscitate me following my sudden cardiac arrest,” says Gallacher, 64, who was club professional at Wentworth for over 20 years. “But for that AED and the quick-thinking, expertise and life-saving skills of the medical personnel in the room that night, I wouldn’t be here today.

“Without early intervention, an individual has just a 5% chance of surviving a sudden cardiac arrest, so Lesley and I felt it appropriate to try to ensure others are equally fortunate should they collapse in or around a golfing venue in future.

“Currently, just 30% of golf clubs have a defibrillator and our stated aim is to try to raise awareness of the importance of having an AED close by in case of emergency, and to increase that figure considerably by encouraging every club or driving range in the UK and Ireland to have at least one public-access defibrillator by the end of 2014.

“Cardiac arrest can happen to anyone at any time, and possibly on the golf course. We want to do whatever it takes to raise the level of awareness of defibrillators and to get them into more clubs around the country.”

Widespread support

Trudie Lobban MBE, founder and CEO of Arrhythmia Alliance, said: “Bernard’s experience has shown the life-saving difference of early CPR and use of a defibrillator. An estimated 100,000 people in the UK die each year from sudden cardiac arrest (SCA). It kills more people than AIDS, breast cancer and lung cancer combined.”

Sandy Jones, chief executive of the PGA, added: “The PGA is delighted to join with Bernard in this campaign to install defibrillators in every golf club in Great Britain and Ireland. It has been a long standing ambition of my own and the PGA that this should happen, and as we have seen through the near tragic experience of Bernard, it is vital that such equipment is available at the time of need.”

Julian Small, chief executive of Wentworth Club, said: “We would encourage all golf clubs to get defibrillators. At Wentworth we have four – in the clubhouse, the two refreshment huts on the courses and in the Tennis and Health Club. The training given to our staff was well received and they are confident that, should an unfortunate incident occur, they can respond quickly and make a difference.”

George O’Grady, chief executive of the European Tour, commented: “Bernard is one of our great champions and it came as a huge shock to hear what happened to him, but also a massive relief to then learn of the importance of the emergency procedures which helped to save his life.

“All of us at the European Tour are fully supportive of Bernard and Lesley’s campaign to get AEDs into every golfing facility in the UK and Ireland and we will provide all possible assistance to ensure the Bernard Gallacher Defibrillator Campaign achieves its ultimate goal.”