Family foundation installs public access defibrillators in Northamptonshire in memory of teenage son, who suffered a sudden cardiac death
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Northamptonshire business owners have offered their support to a family foundation's effort to save people from the heartache they have endured following the death of their teenage son, who died on New Year’s Day while out with friends.
Through fund-raising efforts, Our Jay Foundation is working to prevent the tragic loss from happening to anyone else by funding the purchase and installation of Publicly Accessible Defibrillators (PADs) across the country.
Jackie and Jeremy Hunt, owners of The Heart of the Shires and Whilton Locks Garden Village, decided to get involved and have accessible defibrillator units installed at their locations since their eldest daughter survived a cardiac arrest at age 29.
Jackie said: “Me meeting Jamie’s mum, where the outcome was so catastrophically different, we were both quite moved by her.”
Jamie Rees (Jay), from Rugby, suffered a cardiac arrest on New Year’s Day 2022 and passed away on January 5 at University Hospital Coventry at the age of 18.
Jamie’s mother, Naomi Ress Issitt, 44, Our Jay Foundation founder and head of trustees, shared what happened.
“We were just numb. We were completely in shock. I think we’re all still in shock,” said Naomi.
Six weeks after his 18th birthday, Jamie was at his friend's house with his three friends and his friend’s parents. At midnight, they stepped outdoors to celebrate the start of a new year with fireworks. Jamie's mother said that her son felt "a bit funny" when they got back to the house, those were reportedly his exact words.
Jamie, according to what Naomi was informed, walked outside "to get some fresh air" and sat beside a tree in front of the house. Shortly after, Jamie's friend followed him, saw that he was hunched over, and discovered that he was not breathing. The family called 999 "immediately,” and his friend Josh started doing CPR right away.
Naomi revealed that, regrettably for Jamie, it took more than 17 and a half minutes for the ambulance to arrive; Jamie had to wait for around 20 minutes.
He was revived by the ambulance team, but his brain had been starved of oxygen, and he never woke up. The family lost Jamie on January 5, 2022.
On the night of his death, Jamie—a registered organ donor—saved five lives, one of which was that of an eight-month-old baby girl who received a life-saving liver transplant.
“Around 40 percent of people who die from sudden arrhythmic death syndrome have no underlying reason; they cannot find a reason for it happening, and obviously we didn't even know that was possible,” said Naomi.
Naomi and her husband, Jamie's stepfather, were in Canada on the night that Jamie collapsed. They took a weeklong vacation to commemorate their tenth wedding anniversary. The family could not make it back to Jamie until the next day.
“I’m so grateful that I got those few days in the hospital with him. I slept with him, bathed him, and looked after him. I didn't leave his sight again until we lost him,” said Naomi.
In January 2022, Jamie’s family found out that although his friends knew that there was a defibrillator nearby, it was locked inside their school, so it could not be accessed.
After speaking with her 23-year-old elder son Callum, Naomi created a fundraising page on January 26, 2022, to purchase an available around-the-clock and accessible defibrillator for Jamie’s school in Rugby.
“Myself and my son were completely blown away by the amazing support. We just carried on. And from there, his foundation just grew and grew. We just decided to keep going,” said Naomi.
The very first of the defibrillators was installed at Rugby College, where Jamie was studying a plumbing course.
Jamie’s family is hoping to get these vital accessible defibrillators into as many publicly accessible sites as possible by working closely with local government organisations, community groups, and business organisations.
"That's how I deal with it. If I didn't have Jamie's foundation, I'm not sure I would get out of bed in the morning. That gives me that tiny little bit of comfort and keeps me fighting,” said Naomi.
Jamie's funeral was postponed until February 22, 2022, and the family had to wait seven months to get the coroner's report. They were told that “it was the healthiest heart” they had ever seen. Jamie's cause of death was determined to be sudden arrhythmic death syndrome.
"It was a really long wait. As much as we wanted to give Jamie the best send-off we possibly could, none of us could actually believe that we were holding a funeral for him,” said Naomi.
Our Jay Foundation has installed 110 defibrillators so far.
On Saturday, November 18, Naomi unveiled a new defibrillator at Whilton Locks Garden Village.
“It was absolutely amazing. As a family, we’ve got so much admiration for them. They're the most genuinely caring family. We're so glad that we could work with them to make sure they got a defibrillator in both their locations,” said Naomi.
Jackie and Jeremy Hunt had a similar experience with their eldest daughter, who suffered a cardiac arrest at the age of 29 and survived, although “she’s not back to full health.”
Jackie said: “Jamie unfortunately passed away, and our daughter survived, but it could’ve easily been the other way around, which made it so poignant.”
The Heart of the Shires was the first location in Northamptonshire where one of their defibrillators was installed on November 15.
Jackie added: “Just the thought that goes through your mind as a mum is unspeakable. The feeling is terrible. You feel guilty that you weren't there with them; it's a massive shock. You just don't expect that from 18- and 29-year-olds.”
Naomi is searching for more available sites in the area and urges people to get involved.
The foundation relies on the community’s support and local electricians.