North-east defibrillator project ‘catapults’ to success

Cardiac Physiologist Julius Donkor has been awarded the Global Citizenship Award at the Scottish Health Awards, for his efforts in sending old defibs from NHS Grampian to Ghana, Africa, where they have already saved hundreds of lives.
Picture by KENNY ELRICK 20/11/2019

An Aberdeen scientist today said a project to send defibrillators to Ghana has “catapulted” since launching in May.

It comes as new figures reveal Julius Donkor, senior cardiac physiologist at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary (ARI) has now packed off more than 160 lifesaving devices to the West African nation in less than a year.

The majority of these have been sent to hospitals in the region with 15 given to the Ghana National ambulance service.

Reflecting on the project which launched last year, the 44-year-old healthcare scientist said it has been “meteoric”. He added: “When I went over in September, I added about 30 and there were 130 before, so 160 in total.

“The past year it has become meteoric. It has just catapulted.

“I feel really privileged to be involved in this.”

The vital pieces of equipment have all been replaced with more modern versions in the north-east.

And the project shows no sign of slowing down with plans to raise funds to build a new cath lab (catheterisation laboratory) in the country – an examination room with diagnostic imaging equipment used to visualise the arteries of the heart.

There are currently only two of the labs, which cost around £500,000 each and help in the treatment of heart attacks and other complex procedures.

There are also plans to take a team from Aberdeen to Ghana in the summer to help with delivering training.

He said: “We’ve got loads of projects. Next summer we’re planning to take a team across to Ghana.

“I’m going to go across and do more ECG training. In terms of the training, we’re still trying to find out what the needs are, but it’s going to be surgical training and heart failure consultation.”

The healthcare scientist, who was awarded the Global Citizenship Award at the annual Scottish Health Awards in November for his pioneering work, is also appealing for space to store the equipment he sends out, as currently he uses his living room.

The Scottish Health Awards honours the dedication and commitment of someone who, as well as delivering care through his day job, is also passionate and committed to contributing to global health and social care work in low and middle income countries.