Bringing hope from family tragedy

11th January 2021

A COUPLE who were struck with the sudden loss of a child have turned their tragedy into positivity by fundraising for life-saving defibrillators.

Graham and Zoe Mitchell, from Carmarthen, were on holiday in Fethiye, Turkey, in July 2017 when Graham’s daughter Mali James-Mitchell fell ill and was rushed to hospital.

Mali spent three weeks in intensive care in a Turkish hospital and her mother, Meinir James, also flew out to be by her bedside.

Sadly, Mali passed away in the August from an undiagnosed heart condition called Long QT Syndrome, which often presents with no symptoms at all.

In tribute to Mali, Graham and Zoe have been working closely with the Welsh Ambulance Service to install new public access defibrillators around Carmarthen to help save lives in medical emergencies.

Zoe said: “We started fundraising with the charity Welsh Hearts and had put a post on Facebook which my father shared.

“A friend of my father’s, Huw Phillips, who works for the ambulance service, got in touch and said they could provide us with defibrillators if we could buy the protective casings they sit in.”

Graham, a self-employed plumber, said: “Zoe runs two pubs in Carmarthen, the Golden Lion and the Castle Hotel and since the summer of 2018 we have held a number of fundraising events there, such as gigs and a coffee morning.

“We’ve also received a kind donation from the Nigel Williams Memorial Football Match which is held with Carmarthen FC.”

The couple have so far raised over £6,000 and three new defibrillators have taken pride of place around Carmarthen; one at the HSBC on Lammas Street, one at the Castle Hotel on Castle Street and another at GMF Motor Parts in Pensarn.

Nick Ozzati, Acting Public Access Defibrillator Officer for the Welsh Ambulance Service, said: “With the tragic loss of Mali, the Mitchell family wanted to leave a legacy in her memory and help save the lives of others in the area.

“My colleague Huw tasked me to work with Graham and Zoe to find suitable locations for defibrillators in Carmarthen.

“We were able to identify three suitable sites, secure support of the businesses and oversee the installation of the defibrillators from stock we had available at the time – all of which are now live on the circuit and available 24/7.

“I was privileged to be asked to support them and represent the Trust as I am passionate about providing public access defibrillators for as many new sites across Wales as possible.”

Graham and Zoe were married in Dec 2018, and in early 2020 were blessed with a child of their own.

Their fundraising shows no sign of stopping though with Zoe adding: “We are looking for a fourth potential site around the Carmarthen area and once the pubs are allowed to open again can hold more events.”

Nick added: “With each defibrillator costing around £800 and the casings around £500, Graham and Zoe have done some brilliant work in safeguarding their community and I applaud them.

“There are around 6,000 out of hospital cardiac arrests in Wales annually and a patient’s chance of survival decreases by 10% every passing minute without CPR or defibrillation.

“Early defibrillation is vital in the chain of survival, and Carmarthen is now a safer place.”