Monday, 08 August 2022

Defibrillator offered to club after death of veteran rower

THE founder of a campaign to place life-saving defibrillators in the community wants to help a rowing club purchase a device following the death of one of its members.

Sarah Roberts, who started Millie’s Dream in September 2013, has offered funding for a device at Upper Thames Rowing Club after David Church suffered a suspected heart attack on an ergo.

Mr Church, 74, collapsed while warming up at the Remenham club two weeks ago, where he was facilities manager and had been a member for more than 50 years.

The tragedy happened while he was preparing for a regular outing with the Silvertops, a group of about 30 veterans who row every Friday.

Fellow members and paramedics tried to save his life and Mr Church was taken to the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading but could not be resuscitated.

Miss Roberts said: “I’d like to say on behalf of Millie’s Dream and the people who support the charity, my heartfelt condolences to David’s family and all of his friends.

“We're really, really sorry to hear the tragic news that someone who’s been a massive part of the club has died. It’s impossible to say whether a defibrillator in this case would have been any help, but it highlights the necessity that in a rural areas and those with difficult access the importance of having a defibrillator close at hand.

“It raises the chances of survival if it’s a sudden cardiac arrest from five per cent to in excess of 50 per cent.

“Rowing and golf courses are one of the most common areas, unfortunately, for sudden cardiac arrests. These clubs need to be protected with a defib and I would like to contribute a sizeable sum from the charity to help in the purchase of one for club members, perhaps in David’s name and honour.

“Perhaps club members could also contribute to it. It’s lovely in this situation where there’s been a bereavement like this if people feel they want to do something positive to mark the person’s death.”

Miss Roberts, who named her appeal after her 10-year-old daughter Millie who has a heart and lung condition, said the charity had recently received a donation of £825 from Francesca Schwarzenbach’s personal secretary Geraldine Mannion. This was for a sponsored “no shop” during Lent that she undertook with friends. She bought only essentials, such as food, and the money she saved was donated to the charity.

The amount is enough to buy one device, with the box housing the defibrillator costing £600.

But she hopes that with donations from the community, Millie’s Dream may also be able to install devices at Henley Rowing Club, if it needed one, or Henley Canoe Club, which is based nearby at the Eyot Centre, off Wargrave Road.

She explained: “If I can put money together to provide two defibs with money from the community, that’s the best possible scenario. The canoe club is desperate for one and they have approached me a number of times. Our only limitation is funding.

“The delay to finding David on the ergo and the paramedics arriving is crucial and if we’re going to try and help people we need to have defibs at the site. It should be in an external box so it it will then be for rowers on the river and others.”

Mr Church, who lived in Earley with his wife Judith, was one of the Upper Thames longest-serving oarsman and represented the club in the Thames Cup at the 1966 Henley Royal Regatta.

The couple had two children, Lisa Smythers and John Church, and two grandchildren, Harry, 16, and Ruby, 13. Justin Sutherland, club captain and director of rowing at Upper Thames, said members had debated many times whether to have a defibrillator installed and now would be the right time.

He said: “We are definitely thinking in terms of getting a defib. We’re not convinced it would have necessarily have helped David in his particular instance but people are enjoying their rowing into later life more and more and we have a thriving group that we affectionately call the Silvertops.

“I think the feeling within the group is that they would like to contribute to something in David’s honour and memory and a defib seems like one of the most obvious things.

“We are three quarters of a mile outside of town and there are defibrillators at Leander Club and Remenham Village Hall.  Being 500m away from two defibrillators I suppose is potentially a problem because there’s only a few critical minutes to make them effective so I guess we’re isolated to that extent.”

He added: “We’d be delighted to meet with Sarah at the earliest opportunity. We have a new committee that was elected at the annual general meeting. We have a new chairman Tim Meikle who’s very keen to look into having a defibrillator.” 

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