Legacy of tragic Avril still helping to save lives

Avril McLeod with her daughters Sarah and Emily.
Avril McLeod with her daughters Sarah and Emily.
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The legacy of a Hawick mother of two killed by heart failure at the age of just 35 is helping to reduce the risk of others across the Borders suffering a similar fate.

Avril McLeod died on April 18, 2013, leaving behind her daughters Sarah and Emily, now eight and seven.

Wendy Brown, centre, with daughter Lauren, left, and mum Faye.

Wendy Brown, centre, with daughter Lauren, left, and mum Faye.

In the wake of that tragedy, her family helped set up Avril’s Trust in her memory.

Its aim was to raise funds in her name and support research into the causes of sudden heart failure, help purchase defibrillators and fund cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) training.

The charity has since raised tens of thousands of pounds through a plethora of fundraising efforts and donations.

New statistics reveal that as a result of work by Avril’s Trust, and other like-minded ventures, the Borders now has one of the highest survival rates for cardiac arrests.

Prior to March 2015, the survival rate for out-of-hospital cardiac arrests in the region was just 4%, below the Scottish average of 7% to 10%.

Two years on, the figure for the Borders has risen almost eightfold to 29%, partly due to the work of the trust and partners such as the Scottish Ambulance Service, NHS Borders, Scottish Heart at Risk Testing (Hart) and Kelso Heartbeat.

Avril’s sister, Wendy Brown, also of Hawick, a trustee with the trust, said: “We didn’t want Avril to be forgotten, and that’s why the trust is named after her. There was such a lack of knowledge of what to do when someone suffers a cardiac arrest, and if the trust prevents another family from going through what we have, it is worth it.

“There was nothing that could have been done to save Avril, but helping others gives us satisfaction.

“We’re not going away. The Trust gives us a focus. Hawick is a small town, and we’re well supported with donations.

“We don’t go around shaking a tin. We stage our Easter fun day and our fun run at the end of the year, and we have our cake and candy stalls.

“The last month has been hard because it coincides with the anniversary of Avril’s death, but we’re determined to go on and continue the work in her memory.”

The partnership’s work has been supported by a nationwide strategy for attending to out-of-hospital heart attacks launched in March 2015.

The Borders’ success has been put down to 10,000 people here being trained in CPR in around five years.

CPR training has taken place across the region, including among pupils at primary and secondary schools and at community groups and sports clubs.

The British Heart Foundation has also provided CPR training kits to all Scottish Fire and Rescue Service stations in the country and for local communities wanting to learn the life-saving skills.

Rod McIntosh, NHS Borders’ resuscitation officer, said: “To assist with this initiative, in 2014 NHS Borders gifted 50 defibrillators to Scottish Hart for use across our region, as well as two defibrillators to Borders College.

“Since then, NHS Borders has continued to work closely with partner organisations to deliver training and raise awareness of defibrillators in the community.

“We are delighted to see that this collaborative working is delivering positive results and saving lives.”