A Fremantle business is selling locally designed boardshorts to help expand St John WA’s defibrillator network along regional coastlines after a man died of cardiac arrest on a Denmark beach.
A South Fremantle small business is selling boardshorts to raise money to expand St John WA’s defibrillator network along regional coastlines after a man died of cardiac arrest on a Denmark beach last year.
South Beach Boardies raised $6,000 from pre-sales of the locally designed 'Djiti-Djitis for Defibrillators' boardies, a tribute to a Fremantle father-of-two, Andy Rutherford, 48, who died of cardiac arrest after collapsing on a beach at Elephant Rocks near Denmark in April 2023.
Andy and his family were regular customers of the small business owned by Kirsten Lopez who created the bold and bright boardshorts in collaboration with Andy's widow Renae and two sons Maxton and Fraser. The design pays tribute to Andy’s love for djiti-djitis, or willy wagtails in Noongar, often seen in WA’s south-west.
The profits from the boardshorts will go towards expanding St John WA's defibrillator network across WA's regional coastline, starting in Denmark.
Ms Lopez, who advocates for sustainability, ethical manufacturing, environmental change and community support through her business, came up with the idea “to continue to give back to the community, which is what this whole enterprise is all about”.
"We’ve always prioritised people and planet above profit, and the ‘people’ aspect isn’t only the people involved in our manufacture and supply chain, it’s also the people who buy our beach gear, who keep us going. Building relationships with people in the community, and supporting our community through social enterprise, that’s where we provide our value," Ms Lopez said.
"Clothes themselves won’t change people’s lives. But living our values through our decisions about how we make our clothes, why we make them, and how we invest the money we make from them, that’s where change happens."
The business gives 10 per cent of profits to a range of not-for-profits such as Australian Conservation Society and Protect Ningaloo, as well as donating boardshorts to a range of initiatives for people in need, including refugees, foster children, and remote communities.
"While we originally only envisaged these boardies as a one-off special edition to honour Andy’s life, they’ve been popular enough even with people who don’t know the story behind them that we decided to include them in our ongoing offering so that we can continue to raise money for St John WA," she said.
When she sees people at the beach wearing the djiti-djiti’s design, she says it's "a reminder that we’re all working together to support this project to make our regional beaches safer".
Andy died on the beach despite the best efforts of first aid-trained friends, the use of a community defibrillator, and the speedy response of volunteer crews from the Denmark sub-centre who tried to save his life. Even though Andy was delivered shocks from the St John WA defibrillator and given high-quality CPR from two friends trained in SJWA first aid, he could not be saved.
Lesley Murphy, Denmark Emergency Medical Technician who also knew Andy as a family friend, responded that day along with four others, including a community paramedic, who worked non-stop to try to revive him as they rushed him to the Denmark hospital.
“I can look Renae in the eye and say that, firstly, someone who loved him was with him when he died and, secondly, that we did everything we possibly could,” Lesley said, tearing up at the memory.
“I could honestly say it would not have been a different outcome if it had been in the city, plus the volunteers in our sub-centre are outstanding. It was a team effort, and same with the hospital at Denmark, the doctors, there was a whole crash team turned out, they were outstanding.”
Renae, who wasn’t present when the incident happened, said it helped knowing that nothing more could have been done to save her husband, and having defibrillators on hand was a vital part of that chain of care.
“While it didn’t save him, it’s incredibly easier for me to grieve knowing that there’s no there’s no blame. I know he got exactly what he needed straightaway because people knew what to do, and there were the resources, like the defib, available down there,” she said.
She said her husband was an active, fit and healthy man who had been struck down by a clot to heart which caused a severe stroke three years ago but had recovered well. “He was otherwise incredibly healthy, I mean, 48. You just never know, sometimes, unfortunately, these tragic things happen,” Renae said.
“Our good friends, Sam and Danny, were with Andy on the day and have both been lucky enough to conduct some St John first aid training in various roles over the years. So I’m really grateful that they felt confident and capable that they knew what to do in that situation because of that essential first aid training.”
The SJWA Community First Responder Network is a free service which aims to get defibrillators to cardiac arrest victims in the vital minutes before an ambulance arrives.
To learn more about first aid, visit: https://stjohnwa.com.au/first-aid-training/first-aid-courses