David Sullivan is a busy man. He not only runs a roofing company and travels the world speaking about cardiac arrest survival, he is also on a mission to make the UK the safest place in the world to survive a cardiac arrest, using his home town of Oxted as a blueprint. He and his business partner, ex-football player John Salako, recently installed a defibrillator outside Number 44 in Station Road East, meaning you are now never more than 30 seconds away from one of the town centre’s seven life-saving boxes.
In 2016, two events conspired to change David’s life. His earlier career, including time in the armed forces, gave him a solid background in lifesaving first aid but during a refresher course he was shown a defibrillator for the first time:
“I’d never seen one before and I thought ‘what a great bit of kit!’. I had no idea I’d be seeing one again so soon.”
Two months later, after witnessing a young man collapse on a golf course from a cardiac arrest, David performed CPR for 17 minutes, before the club’s defibrillator arrived, followed by the emergency services. Thanks to his efforts, the man survived. It was a bittersweet moment: although obviously relieved his patient was alive, that traumatic moment came soon after David losing four close friends under the age of 46 to cardiac arrest, outcomes which may have been different if they’d had access to a defibrillator. He knew then that he wanted to do something to make a difference to the survival rates.
The UK statistics make for grim reading: more than 30,000 people suffer out-of-hospital cardiac arrests each year, and the survival rate is just 7%. David blames a lack of defibrillators:
“Speed is of the essence after a cardiac arrest. If you get a defibrillator onto the patient in under three minutes, their survival rate could go up to 73%.”
He set up Heart Angel, a company delivering CPR and defibrillator training, to spread awareness of the importance of knowing how to save a life. During the pandemic, this morphed into Creating Lifesavers, through which David now sells and rents defibrillators and offers various training courses, with the aim of establishing ‘an army of lifesavers’.
In 2021, he embarked on a 1,100-mile golf-themed walk from John O’Groats to Land’s End, raising money for the installation of defibrillators and showing 30,000 people how to perform CPR en route.
He wants to see defibrillators installed as standard outside pharmacies, dentists’ and doctors’ surgeries, and in schools (he is currently teaching CPR to 4,000 local school children). He is also looking to help a football club become the first ‘heart safe’ club in the world.
David says it is vital that everybody learns how to perform CPR:
“It may not be the most important 20 minutes of your life, but it could be the most important of somebody else’s.”
To find out more, or to sponsor a defibrillator, visit creatinglifesavers.uk.
(Above: David Sullivan with one of his Oxted defibrillators)