Family of Sunderland grandad who died of cardiac arrest help to provide life-saving defibrillators

The family of a Sunderland grandad who died after a cardiac arrest are helping to spare others their pain.

Mel Howard collapsed at home in East Herrington in June last year, despite the efforts of daughter Sarah to perform CPR.

The family accessed a defibrillator from the nearby Board Inn, which kept him alive, but the 71-year-old never regained consciousness.

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‘We are delighted with the defibrillator’

(from left) Sergio Petrucci, Lesley Ferguson, head Nicola Hair, Helen Anderson and Barbara Howard, with grandchildren Elise and Louisa Goldsmith and pupils

Now his family has joined forces with city heart health charity the Red Sky Foundation and the parents’ association at East Herrington Primary Academy to fund two of the life-saving devices – one at the school itself and another at The Stables pub in New Herrington.

The school has been raising money for the foundation since a visit by the charity is part of its education roadshow.

The campaign to buy a defibrillator has been a particular passion for teaching assistant Lesley Ferguson, who lost her brother Colin Watchman to a cardiac arrest, and teacher Helen Anderson has run the Sunderland 10k and Great North Run for the foundation.

Head Nicola Hair said: “We are delighted with the defibrillator and we must thank all of our families and Red Sky Foundation for their support in helping us to achieve this.”

A picture of Mel on the school's new defibrillator

Mel’s widow Barbara thanked Foundation founders Sergio and Emma Petrucci and the parents’ association for their help: “It means so much to us as a family to have this here in his honour,” she said.

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Organ donor

“999 guided us to the Red Sky defibrillator at the Board Inn and sadly, although Mel survived his cardiac arrest, he was unable to regain consciousness.

“Mel had registered to be an organ donor and donated his liver, saving the life of another person when unable to continue his own. Mel could not have completed his organ donation had he not been resuscitated and we are so very proud of him for doing this.

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“Having another defibrillator close by brings our family much comfort, as I am sure it will for the residents of East Herrington and it’s very fitting as Mel’s younger sisters, daughters and grandchildren all have and will attend East Herrington.”

Anyone who wants to raise funds for the foundation, which has places for the 10K and Great North Run, can visit