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Relief Station Assistant Curtis Cassell used this defibrillator at Potters Bar station to save the life of a passenger. He's pictured here with Arline Hursey of the charity Defibrillators in Public Places (more pictures below)
Relief Station Assistant Curtis Cassell used this defibrillator at Potters Bar station to save the life of a passenger. He's pictured here with Arline Hursey of the charity Defibrillators in Public Places (more pictures below)

Press release -

Great Northern lifesaver joins charities to promote use of CPR and defibrillators

  • Potters Bar lifesaver, Welwyn Garden City resident and London British Heart Foundation nurse promote Restart A Heart Day 
  • Biggest roll-out on UK rail network
  • Part of £15m station improvement programme

On the eve of Restart A Heart Day (16 October), Great Northern, Thameslink and Southern have announced they will shortly have publicly-accessible, life-saving automated external defibrillators (AEDs) at every one of their 238 stations (full list here), the largest roll-out of heart restarters on the UK’s rail network.

Relief station assistant Curtis Cassell (pictured below), who works at all the stations between Knebworth and Harringay, has already used one of the devices at Potters Bar to save a passenger’s life.

Curtis said: “I ran out and saw the customer on the floor. He was older, in his 60s and someone I recognised as a regular. If there had not been a defibrillator, I don’t know what would have happened - I would think the worst.” (See Curtis' full story in editor’s notes)

The AEDs have been installed as part of a wider £15m stations improvement programme which involves over 1,000 projects, many suggested by local passenger and community groups.

More than 30,000 people suffer cardiac arrest out of hospital across the UK every year and fewer than one in 10 survive. However, early chest compressions (CPR) and defibrillation can double the chances of surviving (link).

Sam Facey, Head of Zero Harm in the Safety & Health team at parent company Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR), said: “By fitting these life-saving AEDs, we believe we’ve made a genuinely positive contribution to the communities across our vast network, which covers London and nine counties.

“All our defibrillators are publicly accessible, so of huge benefit not only to those travelling with us but also the communities we serve. They’re fully automatic – anyone can use them – and our staff are being given familiarisation training.”

The AEDs are ‘smart’, giving verbal instructions and then shocking a patient only if they need it. They also use remote monitoring to sound the alert on dying batteries or out-of-date chest pads and all the cabinets are being wired in – to keep them warm and ready to go.

Sam added: “We’re fitting the same model across our network to provide consistency of quality, staff familiarity and maintenance, and at some stations, where we were updating an existing AED, we’ve been able to return the original device to local charities for use at a second location in the community.”

In an emergency, 999 operatives will shortly know the location of every AED and will direct people to them if they are close enough.

Chloe MacArthur, a London Senior Cardiac Nurse at the British Heart Foundation (pictured below), joined Curtis and on Friday 15 October to demonstrate the simplicity of using the station’s AED.

Chloe said: “We’re thrilled that Govia Thameslink will now have defibrillators in all of its train stations - currently in the UK, it’s estimated that defibrillators are used in less than one in 10 out of hospital cardiac arrests. Quick access to a defibrillator is vital as every minute without CPR or defibrillation reduces the chances of survival by 10 per cent. By installing defibrillators at train stations, Govia Thameslink is making an important contribution in the fight to improve survival rates.

“Restart a Heart Day is a fantastic opportunity to learn CPR or freshen up your skills. A cardiac arrest can happen to anyone at any time, and you never know when you’re going to have to use the lifesaving skill. Taking a short amount of time to learn CPR could be the difference between life and death.”

Also there to share her experience was Welwyn Garden City mum Arline Hursey (pictured below), who lost her 18-year-old son, James, to a sudden cardiac arrest six years ago and set up the national campaign group Defibrillators in Public Places (DiPPs).

Arline said: “James was a gentle giant at 6'4 with a wicked sense of humour and an all-encompassing hug. His loss was a devastating blow to his family, friends and his community.

“As time is of the essence when it comes to someone suffering from a cardiac arrest, we want to raise awareness and demonstrate to people the ease of using defibrillators within the first couple of minutes. Our vision is for everyone to be able to access a defibrillator within four minutes. It is a vital piece of equipment to saving the lives of our loved ones.”

Sue Hampshire, Director of Clinical & Service Development at Resuscitation Council UK which organises Restart A Heart Day, said: “The installation of defibrillators at all Govia Thameslink stations is a fantastic move, and we encourage passengers and the wider community to develop the skills and confidence to use these lifesaving machines. It’s important that people can access defibrillators in busy areas, where they are likely to be needed.

“Restart a Heart, which takes place on or around 16 October, is all about getting hands on and learning essential skills in CPR and defibrillation, and we’d encourage everyone to get involved so they can help someone if they collapse and stop breathing. Learn more about how to get hands on with Restart a Heart at resus.org.uk/rsah.”

ends

Notes to Editors

Restart A Heart Day Every year, The Resuscitation Council UK along with the British Heart Foundation, British Red Cross, St John Ambulance, NHS Ambulance Service and Saving Lives for Scotland, work together to help raise awareness of cardiac arrest www.resus.org.uk/rsah

Defibrillators in Public Places (DiPPs): https://dipps4james.co.uk/

AEDs

Automated external defibrillators (AEDs) are portable devices that check the patient’s heart rhythm. If a problem is detected, they send an electric shock to the heart to restore a normal rhythm. If a person does not need the shock of an AED, the machine will not deliver a shock. It is not possible to hurt someone with an AED; they can only be used to save someone’s life.

No formal training is necessary to operate an AED in a medical emergency as they “talk” the operator through the necessary steps. These defibrillators ensure that, should anyone suffer a cardiac arrest within the vicinity of one of these AEDs, someone will be able to administer lifesaving actions before the ambulance arrives.

Final roll-out

The final 12 stations to have AEDs fitted by the end of October are: Aldrington, Ashtead, Bedford, Crawley, Faygate, Fishbourne, Harringay, Nutbourne, Ore, Southbourne, Southease and Warblington.

Station defibrillator case study – Lifesaver Curtis Cassell

Curtis Cassell is a 50-year-old relief station assistant who works the Great Northern commuter route between Knebworth and Harringay. He is married with a grown-up son and lives in London. He was trained in CPR by GTR and familiarised with the simplicity of using automated defibrillators. 

Curtis was working in Potters Bar ticket office on a cold day in February 2020 when, late in the morning, a passenger shouted to him that someone had collapsed outside the front of the station. 

“I ran out and saw the customer on the floor. He was older, in his 60s and someone I recognised as a regular. My first instinct was to check his breathing. He wasn’t, so I stripped off his shirt and started CPR.” 

A passer-by cradled the man’s head and Curtis told his colleague, David Tharby, who had called 999, to grab the defibrillator. It was only a few yards away, positioned on the outside of the station by GTR to be available for use by the community. 

“I started to follow the defibrillator's instructions. It shocked him and told me to carry on with CPR. He was not responding so it shocked him again. This happened four times over 15-20 minutes. 

“My adrenaline was going. I’m thinking, ‘Is he going to come through? Is he passing away in my hands?’ When I saw he was responding it was, ‘Oh my God!’ It was a great relief. Words can’t express that one.” 

After the fourth shock, the man vomited and started breathing. 

Just about then the paramedics arrived and took over. The man was airlifted to hospital where, Curtis was later told, he remained in a coma for 10 days. 

“I spoke to him a few weeks later – he was travelling through the station, from Potters Bar to Hatfield. My colleague said to me, ‘Do you remember that guy? That’s the guy you saved.” I went up to him. He said thank you, but he didn’t know what had happened to him. All he knew was he had woken up in hospital. 

“I keep on thinking about it – what if he hadn’t come around? If there had not been a defibrillator, I don’t know what would have happened - I would think the worst.” 

ends 

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Govia Thameslink Railway

Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) operates Thameslink, Great Northern, Southern and Gatwick Express services as follows:

  • Thameslink – cross-London services between Bedford/Peterborough/Cambridge and Brighton/Horsham/Littlehampton/East Grinstead, and between Luton/St Albans and Sutton/Wimbledon/Rainham; plus services between London and Sevenoaks
  • Great Northern – services between London and Welwyn, Hertford, Peterborough, Cambridge and King’s Lynn
  • Southern – services between London and the Sussex coast (Brighton, Worthing, Eastbourne, Bognor Regis, Hastings) and parts of Surrey, Kent and Hampshire (Ashford International, Southampton, Portsmouth)
  • Gatwick Express – fast, non-stop direct services between Gatwick Airport and London Victoria (currently suspended during the pandemic)

www.southernrailway.comwww.thameslinkrailway.comwww.gatwickexpress.comwww.greatnorthernrail.com

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