Saving lives in son’s memory

John Pope presenting a  defibrillator to Leverstock Green School in memory of his son Wayne.
John Pope presenting a defibrillator to Leverstock Green School in memory of his son Wayne.

A TEACHER is keeping the memory of his late son alive – while also helping to save the lives of others.

John Pope, the head of expressive arts at Hemel Hempstead’s Cavendish School, and his family have been fundraising to pay for defibrillators since Wayne’s life was cut short when his heart suddenly stopped beating.

Wayne Pope's  birthday -  the week before he died. Left to right:'Wayne (white shirt) Nick, his best friend, Me kneeling, Wayne's uncle behind and Glynn, (Wayne's brother)

Wayne Pope's birthday - the week before he died. Left to right:'Wayne (white shirt) Nick, his best friend, Me kneeling, Wayne's uncle behind and Glynn, (Wayne's brother)

The 30-year-old was a victim of sudden adult death syndrome just a few days after his birthday in August 2005.

John and wife Jeanette, 55, were on holiday in Greece when the couple got the devastating phone call that every parent dreads.

Following a coroner’s verdict of sudden adult death syndrome at an inquest into Wayne’s death, the family decided they wanted to do something to celebrate his life but also help save others from the same tragedy.

John, 56, said: “The family got together and we did quite a lot of research, looking for anything that could have helped him.

“In 2005 it wasn’t widely known about defibrillators.

“On the first anniversary of his death we held a bike ride for family and friends.

“The memories of Wayne and the fundraising is important but also the awareness is equally important.”

Every year on the anniversary of Wayne’s death, John, Jeanette and son Glynn, 31, saddle up and lead a sponsored bike ride to rake in cash to pay for the life-saving machinery that is used to kick-start the heart of someone suffering a cardiac arrest.

The event is always followed by a get together and barbecue at John and Jeanette’s home.

John said: “We do like to keep positive out of the tragedy that has happened and it is nice to remember Wayne.”

The money raised through the first bike ride was enough to pay for three defibrillators.

An annual sponsored walk is also held in Wayne’s name during May by family members living in Kent.

John said: “When we first started people were quite reluctant to accept defibrillators.

“Schools were quite reluctant to take them, they were afraid to take them. Now schools are approaching us for them. We have got a lot of schools interested, which is nice.

“As time has gone on people have been kind enough to do some fundraising on our behalf and that has generated more awareness and more money.”

John, who has been a teacher at Cavendish School since 1989, has just presented a defibrillator, costing £1,000, to Leverstock Green School in Green Lane, Hemel Hempstead.

Teacher Jason Weinrabe, said: “In 2005 John tragically lost his son. Since then the amount of money they have raised and the amount of defibrillators they have put into schools and other groups has just been amazing.

“It has been proven that they are 100 per cent safe – they won’t shock anybody unless a heart beat is not detected, which means they can only do good.”

The school has hosted a sponsored run to raise cash for Wayne’s Fund – the total amount raised is still being counted.

So far 28 units have been presented to schools, businesses and organisations, including one to West Herts Crematorium at Garston.

Staff requested a donation after a number of people had been taken ill during funerals.

One has even saved the life of a teacher at Francis Combe School in Watford. It was used to re-start the man’s heart when he collapsed in the staff room.

“It was one of the teachers who used to teach Wayne when he went to that school,” said John.