THE back-from-the-dead football star Fabrice Muamba last night backed The Northern Echo's A Chance to Live campaign to encourage more North-East gyms to install heart-start machines.
The Northern Echo is calling on gym owners in the region to invest in the machines - known as defibrillators - which are proven life-savers if someone suffers a cardiac arrest while exercising.
It dovetails perfectly with Fabrice Muamba's own big push to increase the number of defibrillators available around the country, after a heart-start machine helped to save his life.
Our campaign was launched after a survey showed that 80 per cent of private gyms in the North-East did not have a defibrillator.
After the former Bolton Wanderers player "died" during a televised match against Tottenham Hotspur in March he was given medical attention on the pitch, which included cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and defibrillation from an AED (an automated external defibrillator) to try to restart his heart.
Thanks to the prompt medical treatment he received, Fabrice made a good recovery.
Now the former Premiership footballer - and his old club, Bolton Wanderers - have joined forces with the Arrhythmia Alliance heart charity to launch Hearts and Goals, a campaign to reduce deaths from sudden cardiac arrest, the UK's biggest killer.
Last night Fabrice said: "It's great to see the campaigning that A Chance to Live has undertaken in order to get more defibrillators in public places. The aim of our Hearts and Goals campaign is that we want to make defibs as common as fire extinguishers. They are both essential and they both can save lives".
Trudie Lobban, founder of the Arrhythmia Alliance, said: "Clearly, The Northern Echo's campaign is closely aligned to the objectives of Hearts and Goals and we are delighted to endorse its goal to place AEDs in gyms and leisure centres, where they can maximise the likelihood of a life being saved.
"Sudden cardiac arrest kills 100,000 people in the UK every year and can affect any one, at any time. With more AEDs in communities, ready and available in the event of someone suffering a sudden cardiac arrest, many of these deaths could be prevented. This is why the availability of these life-saving devices is crucial."
Ms Lobban said the response to the Hearts and Goals campaign with Fabrice Muamba has been "exceptional".
She said the charity is "already making great progress towards our goal of having 500 new public-access defibrillators installed throughout the UK."
The Northern Echo campaign was launched after a 51- year-old father-of-four, Mike Brough, from Darlington, was saved by a combination of cardio-pulmonary resuscitation and a defibrillator at the town's Dolphin leisure centre, when he collapsed and went into cardiac arrest after playing indoor football.
Our campaign - which echoes an earlier, successful push to reduce waiting times for heart surgery patients - has already been backed by the British Heart Foundation (BHF).
This week the scale of the problem facing the region was highlighted when the BHF released statistics showing that only three out of 20 witnessed cardiac arrest cases in the region survived during June.
The BHF said the figures showed that more bystanders need to become have-a-go-heroes and go to the aid of cardiac victims.
The heart charity is bringing back its popular TV advert, starring Hollywood hardman Vinnie Jones.
Since the ad was first screened in January - when it told millions that rescuers should give chest compressions to cardiac arrest victims to the 100 beats a minute of Stayin Alive by The Bee Gees - the BHF said 28 people have said it helped save their life.
To request an AED for your business or community please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01789 450 787.
AEDs can also be purchased from the BHF. Details are available on the BHF website at bhf.org.uk