I was out running with two friends, we’d just come into St. Ives, Cambridgeshire. All was going well, but that’s the last memory I have of that day. I’d suffered a sudden cardiac arrest. My heart had stopped beating and so all my vital organs were being starved of oxygenated blood.
Brain cells can only last about 3 minutes without oxygen. Then they die, as would I. The clock had started ticking… tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock…. Three minutes is not a long time but could my friends help me? They didn’t understand what was going on. They didn’t know what to do. ‘Why has he fallen down?’, ‘Why won’t he answer us?’. Tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock…..
I lay there, they stood there, not knowing what to do. Then the miracle. Not a miracle, a chance encounter. A passing motorist saw me lying on the ground, stopped, got out, and took action. Tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock. One of my friends was instructed to call 999 whilst the motorist started Basic Life Support. It’s called Basic Life Support because it’s simple. He pushed hard and fast on the centre of my chest, and in so doing he drove what oxygen was in my blood, up to my brain.
Those chest compressions bought me a few extra minutes but they were the crucial minutes I needed. They were the minutes that kept my brain alive until the ambulance arrived. The ambulance crew attached a defibrillator and pressed the shock button. After a shock from a defibrillator, it can take a couple of minutes for the heart to restart, so for the next two minutes they continued to push hard and fast. Keep the brain alive. Two minutes later and the defibrillator assessed my heart rhythm again. Success!
I was transported the short distance to Papworth Hospital in Cambridge where I was treated and spent the next three days in a coma.
I now walk around with an ICD – Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator implanted into my chest. I marvel at the technology. I marvel at the teamwork that saved my life. I marvel at the odds of me surviving, the motorist who stopped, who wasn’t even supposed to be there at that time. If he’d been 10 seconds earlier or a minute later, I would have died. So the odds of me surviving were frighteningly small.
But we can change those odds. The more of us who learn the simple skills of Basic Life Support, and take action in an emergency, then the greater the chance of someone with those skills being in the right place at the right time. Yes, there is an investment for you, friends, colleagues to make, but the potential reward cannot be measured. Since my fantastic recovery, I’ve completed first aid training and joined that band of people who know what to do when someone collapses.
The skills are simple, but you’ll be quicker and more efficient if you practise them on a first aid course.
Tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock….
Thanks for reading.