Brave schoolgirl who saved her mum’s life urges others to learn CPR

Fort Hill Integrated College pupil Melissa Doyle with her mum Clare Hamilton, school nurse Eileen McConnell and Head of BHF NI Jayne Murray.
Fort Hill Integrated College pupil Melissa Doyle with her mum Clare Hamilton, school nurse Eileen McConnell and Head of BHF NI Jayne Murray.

A brave Lisburn teenager who saved her mum’s life by performing CPR she had been taught in school has urged everyone to learn the skills to save a life.

Two months ago Fort Hill Integrated College pupil Melissa Doyle took quick action when her mum Clare (38) had a cardiac arrest at her Lisburn home.

The 14-year-old had been taught how to perform CPR months earlier and her brave actions saved Clare’s life.

Melissa had been taught CPR by her school nurse Eileen McConnell using BHF NI’s Call Push Rescue training kit, a free resource for post primary schools across Northern Ireland.

Clare credits Melissa’s training with saving her life.

“On Friday 4 August I woke up like any other day. Melissa had slept beside me the night before and as my alarm went off I pressed snooze to go back to sleep. The next thing I knew I was waking up in intensive care,” she explained.

“I’d had a cardiac arrest. Melissa heard me making a gasping sound. She thought I was snoring and then she realised something was wrong. She tried to wake me up but couldn’t. She then shouted for my husband when she realised I had stopped breathing. My husband called 999 and they wanted to talk him through CPR but he couldn’t do it.

“Melissa said ‘I’ve learnt this in school let me do it.’ So straightaway she and my husband got me off the bed and onto the floor and got on with it and started doing chest compressions. Melissa did CPR for a good five minutes before police arrived with a defibrillator and then the ambulance arrived.

“We were told at the hospital that if Melissa hadn’t bought me time and done CPR immediately I wouldn’t be here now. I’m so proud and grateful to her. I dread to think what would have happened if Melissa hadn’t been sleeping next to me that night. It was just meant to be.”

Clare added: “If it wasn’t for Melissa learning CPR in school thanks to her school nurse and the BHF NI kits I might not be here today. It’s so easy to learn and I’m so grateful that Melissa was taught it at such a young age.”

New figures released by BHF NI show 85 per cent of people surveyed in Northern Ireland would be reluctant to perform CPR on cardiac arrest victims.

The main reasons for reluctance to step in were fear of causing more harm than good (50 per cent) and lacking the skills and knowledge to perform CPR (48 per cent).

There are over 1,400 cardiac arrests every year in the Northern Ireland, and devastatingly less than one in 10 survive. If this happens in front of a bystander who starts CPR immediately before the arrival of the ambulance, the patient’s chances of survival can double. Every minute without CPR or defibrillation can reduce a person’s chance of surviving a cardiac arrest by around ten per cent.

Jayne Murray, Head of BHF NI said: “Melissa’s brave actions saved her mum’s life. She is a credit to her family and her school and we are incredibly proud she learned these lifesaving skills through our Call Push Rescue training.

“Most people think that if they had to perform CPR it might be a stranger in the street but actually most cardiac arrests happen at home and it’s your mum, dad, child or sibling whose life will hang in the balance unless you act quickly.

“We need everyone in Northern Ireland to learn this life-saving skill to give them the confidence to step in and give CPR when someone collapses after a cardiac arrest. It could mean the difference between life and death.”

Eileen McConnell, Fort Hill Integrated College school nurse said: “We are so proud of Melissa and the courage she displayed. Fort Hill promote the Call Push Rescue programme on a continual basis within the school’s curriculum and take pride that the entire school, both staff and pupils, have the opportunity to engage in the training.”

• To help the BHF create a Nation of Lifesavers, or find out how you can teach CPR in your school, workplace or community group log on to