A British mother found a meaningful way to channel her grief. She’s getting 20 defibrillators installed across her hometown after her 18-year-old son went into cardiac arrest, and the nearest kit was locked away in a school.
Jamie Rees was at a friend’s house when he collapsed in the early hours of New Year’s Day. West Midlands Ambulance Service said the holiday was exceptionally busy, with three other emergency calls coming in directly before theirs.
Though his friends performed CPR, he did not get enough oxygen before paramedics arrived and he died in hospital on January 5.
His mom, Naomi Rees-Issitt, has since enlisted friends and family to raise enough money to equip Jamie’s hometown of Rugby with 20 defibrillators.
“There are defibs out there (but they) are locked in buildings,” said the 43-year-old.
“You can’t pre-plan your cardiac arrest. Defibrillator’s that are locked in buildings are pretty pointless.
“The ambulance pulled up to Jamie’s side in 19.5 minutes,” Naomi explained. “If you reach a person in cardiac arrest in seven minutes the chances of getting his heart beating again is 70%.”
The fundraising done by Naomi and the rest of the family has gone so well, that what started with just one defibrillator has now turned into 20 kits due to the overwhelming local support.
Naomi, a mother-of-two and manager for a charity decided to turn the fundraising operation into an official charity called the OurJay Foundation.
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“We started funding for money to set up a defibrillator outside the school. We started Jamie’s JustGiving campaign on January 26, and by the 27th, we’d raised £3,000. Jamie was a really loved by members of his college.”
They decided to keep going—and the amount donated has gone up and up, to its current peak of nearly $14,000.
A bingo night on August 5 raised £6,175, They canvassed local businesses to donate to a raffle, and they were able to give away 65 prizes, like holidays and dinners.
“We’ve had people with long hair being chopped off for it, and we have a skydive with my sister and her husband and the British Army Parachute regiment coming up, too.”
“We’re all pretty exhausted, but we’re hopefully giving something back to Rugby,” she says.
They will be installing the 20 defibrillators by January 5, 2023—the one year anniversary of her son’s passing.
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“We can’t thank people enough. The support has been amazing.”
OurJay gets a special grant from London Hearts for all the defibs they purchase—what normally costs about $1,900 with the vandal-proof casing (£1,650), they get them for $1,450 (£1,237).
“It’s such a minor amount of money to save a life.”
Jamie has managed to give back to the community in other ways after his death. He previously told his family he wanted to be an organ donor—and signed the donor registry three times, to make sure they knew his wishes.
“He’s already saved five lives—five of his organs worked as a match, and one of them was a baby girl.
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“We know Jamie is out there. He’s meant to be saving lives.”
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