Life-saving birthday gift to people of Sid Valley

The new defibrillator now installed at the Sidmouth Tennis, Cricket and Croquet Club. Ref shs 7591-4

The new defibrillator now installed at the Sidmouth Tennis, Cricket and Croquet Club. Ref shs 7591-48-15SH. Picture: Simon Horn - Credit: Archant

A kind-hearted contractor made his 50th birthday really count by donating a ‘priceless’ gift that could save lives of people in Sidmouth.

Lee Sowden said it was not until his father-in-law suffered a heart attack, and was only saved by the quick actions of passers-by, that he became aware of the vital role defibrillators can play in increasing chances of survival.

It was coming up to his 50th birthday and rather than ask for gifts, he requested donations to fund a defibrillator for public use in the event of an emergency.

His generous gesture raised about £1,000 and paid for an Automatic External Defibrillator (AED), which is now installed on the outside wall of Sidmouth Cricket, Tennis and Croquet Club in Fortfield Terrace.

Lee, of QES Electrical, said: “My father-in-law, John Grant, had a cardiac arrest outside the Radway Cinema. He was lucky enough to be resuscitated by a passer-by.

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“It was just before my 50th birthday so I decided to raise some money to buy a defibrillator to put in the town. It was the generosity of friends and family, who instead of giving presents, all paid into the fund.

“People have been really supportive. John comes down to the club a lot, especially during the summer, so we decided to put it at the cricket and tennis club.

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“It’s great to see it installed - it’s a real sense of achievement, but we hope it never gets used.”

He added his thanks to people who saved John’s life and said the incident certainly made him a lot more aware of the importance of defibrillators.

Tennis club member Elizabeth Peace was a driving force behind the project and has organised training for 40 people already.

She said: “As a sports club, it was so important. Saving lives is just priceless.”

The yellow box containing the AED was supplied by Sidmouth Town Council and is clearly visible on the clubhouse wall facing Fortfield Terrace.

Club chairman Neil Gamble added his thanks to all involved, saying it would potentially benefit, not only the club and those who play sport there, but also the wider community.

A second AED was installed just last week in Sidmouth’s Market Square. Each unit can be unlocked once someone has dialed 999 and the emergency operator will supply a code to allow immediate access.

A series of training courses, open to the public, will be held in early in the new year.

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