Aberavon Beach has become a safer place thanks to the selfless dedication of two friends who have both been touched by heart disease.
Thomas Richards, a rehabilitation assistant in Neath Port Talbot Hospital, and Ryan Phillips, a welder in Tata Steel, have set themselves the target of raising £10,000 to help make a visit to the seaside safer through installing four defibrillators along Aberavon’s promenade.
The first defibrillator has now been installed, next to the sunken garden at the docks end of the beach, thanks to the generous donation of £1,500 by Hale Construction.
The pair now aim to quite literally conquer mountains to raise funds for the remaining three devices, as well as donating money to the British Heart Foundation.
Thomas said: “This is a personal topic for us both. Ryan’s father passed away on Aberavon promenade during a heart attack in May 2019 and my father has a chronic heart condition.
“We aim to raise awareness and increase the possibility of the public having access to a defibrillator in the event of a suspected heart attack. This will increase an individual’s chance of survival if defibrillators are nearby.
“After Ryan came up with the idea, we had a look around and there weren’t any available. There are some in the food places and the leisure centre but they are only accessible during opening hours, whereas ours will have 24- hour access.
“The way we have spaced them out, you will never be more than 300 metres away from a defibrillator, which is crucial because after five minutes there’s only around a 20 percent chance of restarting a heart.
“You will always be within that five-minute timeframe that gives you a 70-80 percent chance of restarting the heart, which is a massive difference.”
Thomas said almost anyone could use a defibrillator to save a life.
“They are fully automated so you don’t need any training,” he said. “When you call 999 they give you the location of the nearest defibrillator and a code to gain entry, then the machine will talk you through how to use it.”
A fundraising page has been set up online so people can donate and the pair are planning to attempt the Three Peaks Challenge – climbing Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike and Snowdon within 24 hours –to raise the profile of their cause.
Ryan said the importance of defibrillators had been highlighted during the European Football Championships.
He said: “Hopefully, they will never be needed, but if they are needed, they will be there. And they do work – just look at how one saved the footballer Christian Eriksen’s life recently after he collapsed on the pitch.
“We have been talking about it for two years but have struggled to get it off the ground, but since all the publicity surrounding Eriksen, people are now getting behind us.
“There are 30 of us – all local boys – who are looking at completing the British Three Peaks Challenge, which is climbing Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike and Mount Snowdon within 24 hours including travelling between.
“Others have said they will also fundraise for us – Surf School Port Talbot said they will do a day to raise funds, the whole community is jumping on board.
“I think my father would be very proud of us all.”