Interview with Julie Hughes & Michael Hughes Foundation Team
Extract: MHF Life, 1st Edition, 2018
Publishing Partner: Access News
Would you feel confident to spring into action and provide lifesaving resuscitation or come to a nervous standstill?
The team behind the Michael Hughes Foundation is aiming to turn bystanders into first responders in a bid to save lives – and they’re doing it one defibrillator at a time.
Since its inception two years ago following the untimely death of Western Sydney father Michael Hughes of sudden cardiac arrest, the Foundation has placed more 213 defibrillators throughout NSW and trained more than 1300 people to use them and how to administer basic first aid.
The latter is vital to survival, said Julie Hughes, foundation executive director and wife of Mr Hughes.
“CPR is critical,” she said. “With no intervention, within four minutes a person in cardiac arrest will suffer brain damage and after eight minutes, there is little chance of survival.”
The statistics are sobering, particularly when considering the average response time of a NSW Ambulance is about 10 minutes, which means action by those on the ground in the immediate minutes following cardiac arrest is crucial.
“CPR will buy you time and attempt to keep the person alive. A defibrillator is the critical component to kick start the heart but it’s not designed to replace CPR,” Mrs Hughes said.
The Western Sydney based charity’s extraordinary achievements have spread to the Central Coast, much to the delight of Newcastle Jets chief executive, Lawrie McKinna.
It was through tragedy that he was introduced to Mrs Hughes and the foundation’s trailblazing work. Following the death of a football player during a match on the Central Coast in 2015, the then Gosford mayor began his campaign for the placement of defibrillators at every sporting field in the region.
“When you hear about the death of someone so young and so sudden in those circumstances, you think maybe if there had been a defibrillator on the ground his life could have been saved. It was after that I met Julie,” said Mr McKinna who has since joined the Michael Hughes Foundation as a patron.
What followed was a concerted effort to place a defibrillator at each of the Coast’s 23 local football clubs.
So when tragedy subsequently struck the community again, Mr McKinna said the result was very different.
“Another guy had a heart attack on the field and remarkably the guys that saved his life by doing CPR had received training by the Michael Hughes Foundation; it was just incredible,” he said.
“I think it’s so important that defibrillators should be widely available because they save peoples’ lives.”
Mr Hughes was diagnosed with Dilated Cardiomyopathy just a few weeks before he died at just 38 years of age. That Monday morning started like most others, until he suddenly collapsed while getting ready for work.
“We were blind sighted when Michael passed away,” Mrs Hughes said.
“It has been devastating to our family and friends and the foundation has been the culmination of much grieving and soul searching.
“We have realised we are one of thousands of stories of loss. I couldn’t do this work on my own and certainly not without the skills of the people we are very blessed to have on the board who have been collaborating to do something really good.”
That good includes hosting Defibrillator Familiarisation and First Responder Information Sessions which have been educating people on sudden cardiac arrest, CPR and defibrillation.
But there’s still more to be done, Mrs Hughes said.
“When you’re passionate about a cause, you think you can always do more. It’s fantastic we have placed nearly 50 defibrillators in the local Parramatta community but now we want to turn our attention to making sure people know where the defibrillators are and to develop a community that is ‘heart safe’ which means ensuring they recognise cardiac arrest, they call for help and start basic first aid,” she said.
“We can’t save everybody but we can help give people the confidence to intervene in an emergency and improve a person’s chances of survival.”
Heart attack VS cardiac arrest
A heart attack and sudden cardiac arrest are not the same thing. A heart attack is a circulation problem, indicating blood flow to the heart is blocked. Cardiac arrest is an electrical problem, causing the heart muscles to quiver & fibrillate rather than pump blood. About 30,000 Australians suffer a cardiac arrest each year and when it occurs out of hospital, less than 9 per cent of survive.