AS Kenneth and Wilma Gunn prepare for the heart-breaking anniversary of their son’s death, they talk to reporter Callum Hodgson about why the campaign to improve cardiac arrest survival rates is so important.

KENNETH and Wilma Gunn know first hand how important defibrillators are when it comes to saving lives.

Their son Cameron tragically died on the eve of his 20th birthday in 1991 during a practice football match at Galashiels Academy.

The cause was cardiomyopathy – a disease of the heart muscle. 

Ever since the couple, who live in Selkirk, have worked tirelessly to raise money to fund research into heart disease through their charity Scottish HART (Heart at Risk Testing).

Wilma told us: “It was very difficult when Cameron died. He was playing a game of five-a-side in the games hall at Galashiels Academy at the time.

“It happened on May 27 in 1991, so this month is the anniversary of his death. I would never want any family to have to go through what we went through – that’s why we started Scottish HART.

“You never, ever get over losing a child, but setting up the charity has helped us get by, day by day, knowing it can make a difference.”

Wilma started her fundraising drive with a group of friends soon after Cameron died. They managed to raise £5,000 for the Royal Hospital of Sick Children in Edinburgh.

It was then she decided to set up Scottish HART, which was granted charitable status in 1997.

Wilma added: “At the time, people knew very little about about cardiomyopathy and heart disease. People thought defibrillators were big machines that had to be wheeled around. We have made some really good progress over the past few years and doctors know a lot more now too.”

Scottish HART, which supplies defibrillators around the region is supporting our Heart of the Community campaign. 

As we reported when we launched our campaign last week, the Borders is already the Scottish capital for surviving cardiac arrests.

Since 2014, survival rates have soared from four per cent to 29 per cent (the Scottish-wide figure is 16 per cent).

But we want to go one better and see the region become the world leader.

Sweden and Seattle currently top the table with 30 per cent.

We’re teaming up with local groups and individuals to spread the word – raising cash and awareness.

We want to see a defibrillator in every community – to make sure every part of the region is covered should someone suffer a cardiac arrest.

Wilma added: “More and more are being installed and we have covered large parts of the Borders. But there are still little pockets that need to be seen to.

“We’re a non-profit organisation and it has been great to have the help from the likes of ex-paramedic Colin Baxter and Rod MacIntosh who is the resuscitation officer at Borders General Hospital.”

Wilma and Kenneth have also campaigned to ensure sportspeople are properly screened for heart conditions.

Kenneth said: “People are getting screened now, but for a long time a lot of our home-grown talent weren’t. The most high-profile incident was Fabrice Muamba [the former Bolton Wanderers footballer who suffered a cardiac arrest in an FA Cup game against Tottenham Hotspur in 2012]. 

“People will wonder how he is walking about now, but it was because there was a trained doctor inside the stadium who knew there was defibrillator and knew how to use it.

“The charity has grown beyond our wildest dreams. 

“We get phone calls every day and we have installed defibrillators everywhere, from Eyemouth to West Linton, to Dumfries and Galloway. We will go anywhere.”

Each year Kenneth and Wilma host a football tournament at Netherdale in Galashiels. This year’s will take place on the first Sunday in June.

If you would like to find out more about buying a defibrillator, or would like to donate to Scottish HART, email or call 01750 21297.