TWENTY-FIVE years of saving lives across Dumbarton, the Vale and beyond have earned a team of volunteers a major prize at the Scottish Health Awards.

The team behind “Heartstart Projects in Argyll and Clyde”was nominated for the volunteer of the year award at the ceremony in Edinburgh last week – and local Heartstart co-ordinator Sheenah Nelson, from Balloch, who attended the event with area Heartstart trainer Frances Parkinson, admitted that she was “shocked” to hear compere Fred MacAulay announce they’d won.

Sheenah, who was chosen as a “Champion of Change” award winner by Rotary International in Great Britain and Ireland for her life-saving volunteering efforts earlier this year, said: “It was amazing to learn that Heartstart Projects in Argyll and Clyde had been nominated and shortlisted.

“I would like to congratulate all who were nominated and shortlisted from over 500 nominations.

“As Fred MacAulay said, all who were finalists attending the event were winners – so you can imagine the shock and surprise when he read out the three finalists and announced that Heartstart was the winner.”

The Heartstart project, which is 25 years old this year, teaches basic emergency life support skills in schools, workplaces and community settings across Dumbarton and the Vale and throughout the wider Argyll and Clyde area.

Its volunteers also promote the use of – and provide training in the use of – more than 220 publicly accessible defibrillators, which provide an emergency shock to the heart of a patient who has had a cardiac arrest.

Sheenah, who singled out Heartstart staff Angela McNeil and Bernadette Walker for their support, and NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde and the Argyll and Bute health and social care partnership for funding the project, cited numerous incidents where Heartstart training has saved local lives, including one seven-year-old whose grandfather was knocked unconscious and who put him in the recovery position before calling an ambulance.

She added: “At the end of the event a gentleman and his wife came over to speak to us and congratulate us on receiving the award on behalf of Heartstart volunteers.

“He explained that he had suffered a cardiac arrest and his life had been saved by someone who had received Heartstart training.

“It was a very emotional moment and I was very close to tears.

“This only reinforces what we are doing is saving lives.”