October 19, 2007 / 12:34 AM / 12 years ago

Australia cemetery trains lifeguard gravediggers

CANBERRA (Reuters) - An Australian cemetery is training gravediggers as lifesavers and has installed a defibrillator to jumpstart the hearts of grief-stricken mourners who regularly collapse at funerals.

“A lot of people who die are old, so the people who come to the services are frail and they are vulnerable anyway, and the additional stress of a funeral tips them over the edge,” Vicki Pridmore, chief executive of Melbourne’s Cheltenham cemeteries, told local newspapers on Friday.

Pridmore said a family or friend collapsed at a funeral every two months on average, so now gravediggers were being trained to use the new defibrillator.

“We have had a couple recently with strokes and we call the ambulance four or five times a year. Everybody is doing their training,” she said.

An ambulance spokesman said defibrillators, which deliver an electric pulse to an affected heart to restore regular rhythm, not only treated heart attacks, but could also help assess illness for arriving paramedics.

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