Last weekend, Sudden Cardiac Arrest UK hosted its inspirational “Survive and Thrive” gathering at Staverton Park Hotel and Golf Course. This uplifting event welcomed almost 200 cardiac arrest survivors, co-survivors, key supporters, medical staff, and advocates to connect, find support, and learn from one another.
A key aspect that makes events like Survive and Thrive so meaningful is that it offers the rare chance for survivors to meet others who have gone through similar life-changing experiences. Many attendees noted that they’ve never before spoken face-to-face with another survivor. This welcoming environment facilitated open and candid discussions during group sessions. Time was built into the schedule for mingling and personally interacting with new people who deeply understand the emotional journey after a sudden cardiac event. Survivors at different stages post-cardiac arrest were able to exchange stories, advice, encouragement and emotional support. Examples were shared of survivors who felt isolated back home, but after attending previous SCA UK events, have gradually built up a network of friends who keep in touch. This community of peer support has been invaluable to many.
In addition to the social and community-building aspects, the event also included over a dozen educational seminars led by medical experts. Topics covered relevant areas like post-cardiac arrest care approaches from the NHS, managing fatigue and the psychological impacts, speech and language difficulties that can emerge post-event, arrhythmias and implantable defibrillators, and self-care tips. Practical hands-on CPR and AED training sessions also took place, empowering many attendees to pay life-saving skills forward into their local communities.
A highlight was celebrating an important award conferred upon Sudden Cardiac Arrest UK. The founder, Mr. Paul Swindell, was presented with a plaque from the American Heart Association in recognition of SCA UK’s efforts in international collaboration. As the first time this award was given to a non-medical organisation, it demonstrates the meaningful impact that cardiac arrest advocacy groups like SCAUK have in this space.
Auction winner Karen receives the CellAED from survivor and brand ambassador Benjamin Culff
SCA UK Founder Paul Swindell receives the CellAED from RRR representative Yoan Dzhugdanov
Survivor and brand ambassador Benjamin Culff
The event benefited from key sponsor Rapid Response Revival, one of the pioneering companies making portable defibrillators for use at home. Their generous support enables making Survive and Thrive accessible at low cost to survivors, co-survivors and their key supporters. RRR’s CellAED automated external defibrillator was showcased and ultimately auctioned off to one lucky winner—a life-saving device that could make all the difference for someone affected by sudden cardiac arrest.
Beyond the educational content, what makes this event so special are meaningful moments sprinkled throughout. An impromptu gospel music performance lifted spirits sky high. The group happened to be staying at the hotel and some members worked in cardiac care – an incredible coincidence! Magic from Trevor Cline brought wonder and levity. Hearing personal accounts from young survivors like keynote speaker Benjamin Culff, now 23 but experienced cardiac arrest 6 years ago at age 17, was incredibly powerful. Benjamin is giving back by passionately advocating for cardiac arrest awareness. His story was a testament that there can be light and purpose after a cardiac arrest.
While moments of laughter were treasured, tears were shed too. The resonant feeling of “I’m not alone in this” as strangers connected heart-to-heart made this another unforgettable SCA UK conference. When the day came to a close, contact info had been exchanged, quick friendships formed, and glimmers of hope restored. This welcoming forum, where fighters for survival could unpack emotions, process trauma, and feel understood, demonstrated the vital need for gatherings like this.
For survivors and co-survivors alike, the greatest gift was hearing from others further along in their journey about the progress that is possible. While initial recovery is incredibly challenging both emotionally and physically, they emphasised how taking it step-by-step eventually leads to reclaiming enjoyment and purpose in life again. Their stories of encouragement and overcoming hardships uplifted newer survivors and co-survivors just embarking on this often difficult road. And in turn, those still in the earlier phases of processing traumatic events brought renewed perspective and inspiration back to long term survivors and their families about treasuring each day. There is forward progress to be found for both survivors and affected family members when those with more experience share their struggles, triumphs, and lessons learned along the way at gatherings like this.
If you missed it this year, whether you are a sudden cardiac arrest survivor, co-survivor , key supporter, or medical practitioner who wants to learn more about improving care for cardiac arrest patients, we enthusiastically welcome you to join us at the next Survive and Thrive event. Stay connected with Sudden Cardiac Arrest UK online for updates on future events.
After our first meet-up in February 2015, I realised I was not alone. It was the first time since my cardiac arrest the previous year that I had spoken face-to-face with someone who had experienced what I had. This was also true for my wife, who also happened to be my lifesaver. From that meet-up, the idea of SCA UK was born. Since then, we have achieved a considerable amount, primarily providing information, resources and support to others in a similar situation but also raising the profile of survivorship and the need for better post-discharge care. We are starting to get traction in this, and with the formation of the charity, I genuinely believe we have a bright future ahead and will make a significant difference in the lives of many who join our ranks.