Ten years, nearly departed

The 4th of April 2014 and now, a decade later—a span of ten years, encompassing 3,653 days, 87,672 hours, and 5,260,320 minutes. It’s a considerable stretch of time, especially when each day feels like a bonus.

The significance of a decade becomes more profound when we consider that it’s enough time to witness a baby transform into a child edging towards the end of childhood. Yet, according to current WHO/UNICEF statistics, over 7 million children a year don’t reach that age.

This sobering reality magnifies the significance of surviving a near-death experience like cardiac arrest on any given day. And means that almost twenty thousand children didn’t make it on the day I narrowly escaped the same fate.

For some survivors, feelings of guilt are not uncommon.

Questions like “Why me?” and “Why did I survive?” may plague their minds. However, I haven’t been troubled by these thoughts, as I believe such events are not connected.

Surviving an unwitnessed cardiac arrest is an extraordinary feat, akin to navigating a treacherous maze blindfolded and emerging unscathed. While many attribute my survival to guardian angels or divine intervention, I credit it to the culmination of years of tireless effort by countless individuals who meticulously developed survival protocols – the “Chain of Survival”. Luck also played its part, weaving its threads into the intricate chain of events that led to my rescue.

Contrary to what some may believe, sudden cardiac arrest is not a modern phenomenon. Historical records, such as a list of deaths from London in 1632, reveal instances of sudden deaths labeled simply as “Suddenly.” While life expectancy was significantly lower then, with many not even reaching 40, these historical accounts resonate with the abruptness of our own near-misses.

Back to Life

man in green jacket leaning head on blue case
Photo by Marcelo Chagas on Pexels.com

I’ve written about my event before, but being brought back to consciousness came with downsides beyond just the momentary lapse into oblivion. The brain doesn’t react well to a temporary lack of oxygen, leaving lingering issues like fatigue, confusion, forgetfulness and a general mental fog. One’s previous personality can turn rather subdued and flat – much to the confusion of loved ones.

Yet there was an unexpected upside too.

Experiencing how seamlessly existence can be abruptly disrupted, even briefly, instills a profound awareness. A heightened sensitivity to each breath, each moment of being alive. The realisation that any fleeting moment could be your last is strong motivation to appreciate every day, regardless of accolades.

And Then

This second chance at life was not something I could just let pass by.

Realising that each day could be my last, I felt driven to make the most of this bonus time. It started by simply seeking support for myself after the trauma, connecting with other survivors online. But what began as a modest Facebook group soon grew into something much bigger.

As more people shared their difficult experiences and came together, it was clear there was a lack of support for our community. Our small group of survivors turned into a movement – Sudden Cardiac Arrest UK – dedicated to advocacy, education, and ensuring no one else would be left to fend for themselves after their brush with death.

This grassroots effort eventually became an official charity, a guiding light for the many people given another shot at living in the blink of an eye. It has become my driving purpose, my promise to not waste this improbable gift of more time on this earth.

Those first 10 years were a labour of love – me reaching out for help, finding others in the same boat, and saying yes to opportunities we would have previously turned down. It opened up new doors and experiences I never could have imagined in my former life.

But now that we’re established as a proper charity, we need to become more professional. We’ve uncovered a massive unmet need, not just in the UK but beyond – an entirely new group that the medical world hasn’t really had to accommodate before. Survivors who have traversed the threshold of death itself, with unique challenges and requirements.

We can’t remain a casual support network any longer. We need to step up our efforts and truly deliver what our thousands of members deserve. That will require more time, more ideas, more resources than we’ve had as a grassroots organisation.

This has become a critical mission, filling a glaring gap in cardiac care.

We have an opportunity to make a real difference for SCA survivors everywhere. But we’ll need all the help we can get to realise that vision.

I must extend my sincere gratitude to the champions who have helped us along the way – Dr. Tom Keeble, Gareth, Stuart, Charlotte, Ingrid, Fay, Anne and John from SADS UK, The Essex Cardiothoracic Centre and many others.

Without their support, we would not be where we are today.

But can you also contribute your skills, experiences, efforts and donations to help lift us to that next level of supporting this underserved community?

Dear Survivor

After a decade’s journey traversing life’s peaks and valleys, here is a few words to hopefully help light your way through the shadows…

Dear survivor, stunned and shaken
By that moment you were taken
To the edge of life's harsh line
Let me share some words of mine

I know you're reeling, scarcely breathing
Wondering what this second life's meaning
The road ahead seems tough to travel
Yet your tale's woven with mysteries to unravel.

You'll find new strength in each tomorrow
Trading fear and dread for courage borrowed
From those who walked this path before
Opening your mind to what life has in store

The way won't always be easy-paced
There will be stumbles you must face
But you'll discover within that test
New reserves from within your chest

Cherish those around you, let their love be banded
Their support and care, however branded
Will be the balm that mends and heals
The cracks this shock, has shook and revealed

You've been handed a gift, not a choice that's true
A new lens on life, a different view
To seize each moment, let petty things brush
And drink deep the days, leaving none to rush

The path winds long with upward arcs
But you'll reach vistas leaving their marks
Of hard-won pride and purposeful being
More wondrous far than eyes were once seeing

This renewal's lamp now rests in your hands
Lit by fortune's fickle demands
Go forward, brave one, and let its glow
Light for others the way to grow

Their reunion, too, with life's pulsing drum
Awaits the courage that you've become
My words are done - the rest you'll write
With the pen of days, burnished bright

2 thoughts on “Ten years, nearly departed”

  1. Gosh the deaths listing is interesting – some are obviously due to the lack of medical knowledge in that era – good grief death due to teeth! presumably this must be infection related.

    And here we are hundreds of years later still discovering new things about our complex bodies!

    I am so grateful to be a survivor and yet it’s crazy to think better post cardiac arrest support is not in place. The survival rate may be very low but social media seems to have helped to highlight shortcomings!

    I am so grateful to the founder members of this group not only for raising awareness but more importantly for bringing like-minded people together to share their experiences.

  2. Copied from your article:-

    “I’ve written about my event before, but being brought back to consciousness came with downsides beyond just the momentary lapse into oblivion. The brain doesn’t react well to a temporary lack of oxygen, leaving lingering issues like fatigue, confusion, forgetfulness and a general mental fog. One’s previous personality can turn rather subdued and flat – much to the confusion of loved ones.”

    ‘Yet there was an unexpected upside too.”

    These words of yours mean so much to me, knowing it is not just me! I haven’t really been able to put into words how my cardiac arrest has affected me but I suddenly realised that along with the fatigue, confusion, forgetfulness and general mental fog, my personality HAS changed and feeling subdued and flat is exactly how I seem to be. Not that I want to be.

    There have been plenty of unexpected upsides though since that unforgettable day in November, 2021.

    Of course I have immense feelings of gratitude for all the help I received and for an incredible string of events that really made me sense my guardian angels had been looking after me!

    Another bonus is that I can now say that I am 10 minutes younger!

    One thing I like is that after always being on the go for 75 years and taking care of everyone else, I now have no guilt at staying in bed all morning if I feel like it and don’t worry about the housework not being kept on top of! Pressure is off and there are better things to do.

    Thank you and keep up the good work.


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