Have a Heart for Isabelle

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Maria’s six-year-old daughter, Isabelle Flynn, was born (at just 28 weeks) with apnoea, “a condition where she can stop breathing – she can die at any stage – and she has died on hundreds of occasions”.

Ms Condon, who is a member of Waterford’s Irish Red Cross team and is fully CPR-trained herself, said the training has revived Isabelle on innumerable occasions over the course of her short life.
But the “real fear,” as Maria put it herself, “started when she began school, and the realisation is that Isabelle can die at any stage, and having heard about two recent incidents elsewhere, one of a 10-year-old girl in County Down who died due to Sudden Death Syndrome, and another where a nine-year-old boy was brought back by his principal in Dublin when using a defibrillator and CPR training, that really brought home to me the fact that this could happen not only to Isabelle, but to any child in any school in the country”.

Ms Condon added: “This is happening every day. We’ve done our research and you’re talking about 15 people a day dying in Ireland due to Sudden Death Syndrome and 125 a year from choking. We might not be able to save everyone, we realise that, but some of these deaths could surely be prevented, particularly in schools where there’s CPR training, so something really has to be done.”

Maria Condon contacted local Councillor Melissa O’Neill (Ind) in relation to raising the issue at County Council level, and the petition kicked into gear thereafter.
Incidentally, Cllr O’Neill is part of another cardiac-related campaign (which The Irish Sun is also spearheading through its ‘Show Some Heart’ initiative), which is lobbying for the installation of defibrillators in each school in the State.
“We’re talking about the difference between life and death here,” said Cllr O’Neill, “and that applies for both the defibrillator issue and what Maria has raised, and she deserves huge credit for highlighting her experience with Isabelle, as well as the wider situation in terms of CPR training among teachers.”

Cllr O’Neill added: “Given how much time children spend in school, I think having teachers who are physically capable of performing CPR in the event of a medical emergency is a sensible, practical idea. There may well be some teachers who feel they have enough responsibilities as it is, but the fact that over 400 teachers have already signed Maria’s petition is a good indicator that there’s a lot of support among teachers to have this training made available to them. And if it was introduced at teacher training college level, for example, I feel that would be the best way forward, and it would also be more cost-effective: it should be fully funded by the Government…
“CPR training is something which we would all benefit from, be it in the workplace, at sports clubs, community groups and other such gatherings where you tend to have sizeable numbers of people gathering on a regular basis.
What Maria has suggested, what she’s called ‘Isabelle’s Law’, can only be viewed positively: this is a public health matter, and I am delighted to be associated with what she’s trying to achieve here. Maria deserves enormous praise for raising the profile of this issue not only in Kilkenny or Waterford, but right across the country. So let’s hope some good, some long lasting good, comes from this.”
Maria Condon explained: “What we’re hoping will arise from our petition is that every teacher and Special Needs Assistant, every one of them who is physically capable that is, should be CPR trained because there’s not too much point in having the ‘defibs’ in place if they can’t be used – right now there is no law that says they should have that level of training, and that just doesn’t feel right to me…
“There’s a magic three minutes after a major episode, the three minutes in which you have to keep the brain from dying (i.e. when the brain is deprived of oxygen) so you have to get there fast and start CPR straight away. And if a child does go down in a classroom, time is of the essence. And with proper training, irreversible damage can be avoided. Anything that can be done to keep a child alive, or another member of staff for that matter, should be done – and that’s where training comes into play – and that means doing chest compressions until emergency services arrive. We’ve seen the benefits of that training with Isabelle. It’s saved her life. And I want to see other children given the same chance that we’ve been able to thanks to training. And we want to see this done for Isabelle and for all children.”

Siblings Harry and Molly, said Maria, “have saved Isabelle hundreds of times,” and their efforts were recognised at the Pride of Ireland Awards in September 2016, so it’s clear that a duty of care runs strongly under Maria’s roof at Abbey Park.
Maria had been involved in the Waterford Irish Red Cross prior to Isabelle’s birth, so a first responder’s level of awareness has long been a part of her armoury, so to speak.
“We’re actually CPR instructors as well, as we visit schools and communities to provide training and demonstrations.”
While at Maria’s home, this reporter was given a CPR lesson, practicing chest compressions on a dummy produced in double quick time. I placed the heel of my right hand upon the breastbone of the dummy’s chest, between the nipple line. I then placed my left hand on top of my right hand, interlocking my fingers, pressing down on the breastbone 30 times, a procedure which ought to be repeated until a paramedic arrives.
Said Maria: “Remember: you could be waiting for up to 40 minutes for an ambulance to reach you – so you need to press as hard as you can during that time – break ribs if you have to…
“Isabelle has gone just over 10 weeks without an episode, and that’s the longest spell she’s had since she was born, and that’s been a huge relief. We’ve been told she’ll grow out of it, but I’m still on egg shells when it comes to her health, yet in many ways, it’s like dealing with someone who has had a cold for a long time, it’s become a part of our lives on a daily basis.” The ‘Young Hearts N Hands’ campaign is likely to extend to Waterford Institute of Technology’s Students Union, in addition to national student body, the USI, as well as the main teaching unions, the INTO and the TUI.
“This is a mission for me,” said Maria. “We have to do something about this now. Doing nothing is not an option, and we won’t stop until we get this into law.”

| Photo: With thanks to Maria Condon

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