From Survivor to Supporter

I suffered a heart attack and a separate sudden cardiac arrest exactly 1 week apart in February 2021. When I came around, other than being strapped to an ECG monitor I felt ok and determined not to look back but always forward. I left the hospital 7 days after arriving, complete with a new S-ICD but on the whole feeling ok.

I joined Sudden Cardiac Arrest UK a week later and was stunned when I discovered just how lucky I was to get through an SCA and to get through it in good shape. Since then, I have embarked on a path of physical rehabilitation and CPR evangelism. 6 months on from my event, my life has been changed and for the positive.

This post talks about my transformation from an SCA survivor to a CPR evangelist and supporter of the charities that were part of my chain of survival.

My Heart Events

I have always been very active and at school was a member of all sports teams, the fastest in my school, and competed at the county level in athletics. Since the onset of Covid lockdown, I exchanged my 5-mile daily car commute for a 40-minute walk and got into road cycling doing 30-50 miles a week. I lost 1 stone in weight and was the fittest I had been in years.

On Saturday 13th of February 2021, while completing a virtual mountain ride on my bike, I felt the sudden onset of indigestion in my chest which turned out to be a heart attack. I was rushed to the Royal Papworth Hospital (64 miles away) and diagnosed with a blockage to the LAD. I had a stent fitted and was sent home 3 days later.

One week on from my heart attack, on Saturday 20th, I collapsed in my bathroom. Fortunately, my wife, who bizarrely had done a CPR refresher less than 24 hours earlier, heard me collapse and administered CPR. The paramedics arrived, I was shocked, taken by air ambulance back to the Royal Papworth, no cause found and had an S-ICD implant as insurance and returned home the following Saturday.

By the standards of members of Sudden Cardiac Arrest UK, my event was quite routine.

Being airlifted by the EAAA to the Royal Papworth Hospital

Realisation

I did not feel bad on arrival home; my brain seemed to function, I could walk and even remembered my work passwords. I was directed to the Sudden Cardiac Arrest UK group in my first week and that was when I discovered that I was one of the 8% of the 30K people who suffered an OOHSCA in the UK and survived having been resuscitated.

The East Anglian Air Ambulance (EAAA) aftercare team arranged a video call with the people who attended to me. I soon arranged a call with the East Anglian Ambulance Service. This was my chance to say thank you to them for saving my life. I was stunned by the response. These people don’t often speak to survivors, and they seemed almost more pleased to meet me.

At this point, I determined I had to do something to try and give back.

CPR is the vital first link in the chain of survival

Becoming a Supporter

The celebrations for the 60th anniversary of the BHF coincided perfectly with my rehab. In April I committed to walking 60 miles, achieved 72 and raised in excess of £1400 for the charity.

On my return to work, I was determined to spread the message, get people to learn CPR and get the business to step up in the provision of CPR and installation of AEDs.

So, in May I gave an impassioned presentation to 80+ of my colleagues and the reaction was great. I subsequently delivered a presentation on behalf of the EAAA and to another company that I work with. In the latter case, the company committed to providing CPR training and installation of AEDs as a result, making the personal emotional impact all worth it.

Ever since my event, I have worked with the BHF, Royal Papworth Hospital, EAAA and SARS. Spreading the word about CPR has become my new motivation and passion. In the last 6 months, I have made it my purpose to become knowledgeable about my event, its outcomes and the charities that supported me. I am proud to be a supporter of the EAAA and SARS. I am now looking to start a new career in the charity sector so that I can hopefully help others in their times of need.

Meeting one of the volunteer SARS critical care paramedics

So far, my story has been featured in the local press, I have had the privilege to speak to the EAAA and meet up with members of the tiny charity that is SARS.

I don’t know what the next 6 months will bring, but my sense of worth and motivation level is higher than they have been for years. I am determined to make my life-changing event a vehicle for good.

I feel incredibly lucky. Not only have I survived the event, but my wife (who delivered CPR) and my adult son, has been amazing.

Our motto is “Always look forward and not back”.

I cannot wait to see what the future brings.

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