Belgian baker creates new recipe for saving lives

21 Oct 2019
local hero, saving lives, baker, belgium, heart attack, aed, cardiac arrests

Entering the Belgian village of Morkhoven, the bakery ‘Bakkerij Belmans-Saelen’ catches your eye straight away. Smiling with their contagious smiles are three happy children wearing baker’s hats, pictured on a life-sized image. They are smiling not only because of the delights available at the bakery, but also because something else is sparkling on the building’s façade. Read this beautiful story on how Rotaid’s round, outdoor cabinet makes these children proud and made Wim, their father, the hero of Morkhoven ……

We talk to Wim at his kitchen table. ‘Peaceful’, can be used to describe Wim Belmans’ bakery, but looks can be deceiving. Although his three bakeries located in Morkhoven, Westerlo and Zammel are closed on Mondays, Wim has just finished his working day. “We are preparing the bread for tomorrow morning”, Wim explains. He is no descendant from a baker’s family. At the age of thirteen Wim started working at the local bakery, helping out during the weekends. He then started working there after school and after eight years Wim decided to take over the whole bakery. “It used to be a little shop, but I totally renewed and rebuilt it. Those were tough times, working many hours a day. In the end, it is not that strange I suddenly encountered a heart attack…. and this eventually resulted in another one”.

“I was in the bakery alone when it happened and was just able to call my wife”, he continues. “She called the emergency services right away. It made me think. I kept working the hours as I did before. But what if it happens to me again? I was approached by the non-profit ‘HeartSaver’ to help sponsor an AED for the school in Westerlo. After what happened to me, I decided to purchase an AED and a Rotaid outdoor cabinet myself. I knew I did not only want to have it in case it happened to me again, but to secure a heart safe environment for all people in town. And therefore, I installed the cabinet and AED to my bakery’s façade.”


A lot of attention!

The news spread like a wildfire. “I was interviewed by the newspaper and the local television. Everybody talked about it and people visiting the bakery asked questions about the AED. I must have opened the cabinet at least a hundred times, just to show how swift and easy the cabinet can be opened. Everyone can use it. ‘If my children can use it, you can definitely use it too’, is what I tell my customers. To make the people in my town familiar with using an AED, I organised a training session in our parish hall together with Luc Ketele from HeartSaver. I made sure our guests had something to drink and eat, while Luc provided all the needed information about CPR and the use of an AED. It was a successful evening with almost 100 attendees, which brought a lot of attention for the AED and my bakeries”, Wim smiles. “All three locations now have an AED attached to the façade. It was the best publicity ever. However, that is not my intention. I would rather like it to be unnecessary. In my opinion, the government should oblige companies to have a working AED. Starting your own company? Then you should install an AED.”

‘In my opinion, the government should oblige companies to have a working AED. Starting your own company? Then you should install an AED.’


Rotaid’s green, round outdoor cabinet does not just look pretty. Two years after installing the round cabinet at a bakery’s façade in Morkhoven, its AED has been successfully used. Residents acted adequately and used the well-known AED, located at Bakkerij Belmans-Saelen, to save the life of a 83-year-old woman. The combination of quick aid and the availability of an AED saved her life and made Wim the hero of Morkhoven. “I can still remember her husband's warm embrace. It gives me goosebumps again. Not being portrayed as a hero but being able to save a life, gives me a very happy feeling inside.”


Doubling the number of AEDs.

“In Belgium, approximately 11,000 people suffer from out-of-hospital sudden cardiac arrests every year”, Luc Ketele says. “Less than 10% survives. On-time CPR and the availability of a working AED could increase this number to 60 to 70%. The availability of an AED in a public area is crucial. Unfortunately, Belgium only counts 10,000 AEDs. Together with Rotaid and enthusiastic individuals like Wim Belmans, HeartSaver strives to double the number of public and 24/7 available AEDs in Belgium.”

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