An award-winning regional newspaper campaign launched after a photographer died of a heart attack aged 38 has been revived after another former staff member suffered heart trouble.
The Northern Echo initially launched its Chance to Live campaign following the death of its deputy chief photographer Ian Weir while waiting for a heart bypass operation in 1999.
The campaign was credited with having played a part in persuading the then Labour government to invest more than £700m in upgrading heart surgery services in England, which led to a dramatic reduction in waiting times for bypass operations.
Now the paper has relaunched its campaign after graphic designer Mike Brough, who used to work at the Echo and was a former colleague of Ian’s, suffered a heart attack while playing football in the summer – with only the rapid use of a defibrillator saving his life.
The Echo is calling for an increase in the heart-starting machines in public places, especially private gyms where it was discovered that 80pc do not have them, while all the councils contacted did possess them.
The paper has also purchased its own machine and will train staff in using it.
In a blog about the campaign, editor Peter Barron said: “Before making our call for greater investment in defibrillators, we have spoken to experts from the British Heart Foundation and highly respected consultant cardiologist Jerry Murphy, of Darlington Memorial Hospital, and they have given their support to the campaign.
“They assure us that the use of defibrillators, which anyone can use with basic training, can make the difference between life and death.
“As a result, the company which publishes the Northern Echo, has invested in its own defibrillator and will train staff to use it.
“The original campaign, which followed the Ian Weir tragedy, has undoubtedly helped to save lives over the past 12 years. By encouraging the greater use of defibrillators, I sincerely hope the extension to the campaign will help avoid more deaths.”
Automatic defibrillators, which deliver an electric shock to restart the heart, cost about £1,000 and can be used by any adult who has had the appropriate training.
Mike said: “Considering what happened to me, I strongly support this campaign. I am now looking to join a gym and I would like to be somewhere where they had the right facilities if I had a problem.”
The campaign has also been backed by Professor Jerry Murphy, who praised the paper’s role in helping reduce waiting times for surgery.
He said: “I am entirely behind your campaign. This is something that needs to be addressed, particularly on premises where people are taking exercise and playing sport.
“We need to have more investment in equipment and in training staff so they know what to do if there is an emergency.”