Retailer and cardiac arrest survivor Sinead Connolly donates five defibrillators to local area

Sinead Connolly, of Connolly’s SPAR in Dunclug in Ballymena, donated five defibrillator devices as part of SPAR NI’s Heart of the Community campaign (Photo: Henderson Group)

Sinead Connolly, who runs Connolly’s SPAR, Dunclug in Ballymena, has donated, along with her family and team at the store, five defibrillator devices to local groups and businesses in the area.

She raised over £7,500 for the devices on the anniversary of her life changing event, when she went into cardiac arrest on the morning of 28 October 2020.

Luckily for Sinead, paramedics and the rapid response medics were able to bring her back in the ambulance on the way to Antrim Area Hospital. She was diagnosed with Sudden Death Syndrome, a diagnosis that can often come all too late for those who may not be near an essential piece of kit when their heart stops with no warning.

“What happened to me could happen to anyone and over 90 per cent of people who have a cardiac arrest do not survive it. I didn’t know I had this condition until my heart stopped, and I was just so lucky to be in the back of an ambulance when it happened after deteriorating throughout the day and the quick thinking of my husband. I was shocked with the defib, they got me back and I spent three weeks in hospital having an Ablation procedure to fix the electrical fault in my heart,” Sinead said.

“My husband Conor and I run the local SPAR in Dunclug, and as part of SPAR NI’s Heart of the Community campaign to install Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) outside their stores across Northern Ireland, we decided the anniversary of my cardiac arrest would be the perfect time to fundraise with the community to get one for outside our store.”

Through a 12-hour ‘spinathon’ in store, online fundraising and bucket collections one year to the day of her cardiac arrest, they had raised enough for their own AED at the store, as well as four others which have now been donated throughout the community.

Some of the funds will also go towards providing CPR training for those in the community and the in-store team.

“We have donated defibrillators to the SureStart Playgroup and The Harmony Hub in Ballymena, Healthy Kidz in Portadown, and one has also gone to the All Saints Youth Club which provides so many programmes for young people, as well as a space for the Geraldine Donnelly School of Irish Dancing and the All Saints Boxing Club,” Sinead added.

“Then of course the fifth is installed outside our store and available to the community 24/7. We hope that these defibrillators never need to be used, however it is so important that people in our local community know they are there should they need them for a colleague, friend or family member.”

The AEDs will be registered with The Circuit, the new National Defibrillator Network launched by the British Heart Foundation in partnership with the NHS, Microsoft and UK Ambulance Services to connect every device to its local ambulance service and the public, enabling even faster response times and more lives saved.

Henderson Group added that there are now around 250 AEDs installed outside SPAR, EUROSPAR and ViVO branded stores in Northern Ireland.

Bronagh Luke from Henderson Group, who spearheaded the Heart of the Community initiative, commented: “Sinead and Conor run a store that is central to their community and the sheer outpouring of generosity from their shoppers and supporters for their fundraising is testament to that.

“Unfortunately, our defibrillators have been used more than we would like, however they have saved the lives of 13 people that we’re aware of across Northern Ireland, so our campaign is a vital one which raises awareness for everyone in knowing those devices are available to them locally, as well as saving lives. We were so relieved to hear Sinead made a full recovery and is continuing to thrive with her family and business in Dunclug.”

A map of these devices across Northern Ireland can be seen here.