A man who survived a heart attack while out running was reunited with the firefighters and critical care paramedic who helped save his life at a Restart a Heart drop in session at Sevenoaks fire station.
John Conway was out for a regular Saturday morning run on Hitchen Road with his wife Donna when he collapsed to the floor without warning.
Donna explained what happened: “I’d stopped to retie my lace and as I stood up ready to start running again, John fell to the floor. Initially I thought he’d fainted but it very quickly became obvious that wasn’t the case.”
Fortunately, Donna had her mobile phone in her hand so rang 999. Meanwhile, a passer-by stopped to help, while Donna started performing CPR on John.
Donna was incredibly relieved when she heard sirens but admits to being very shocked when a fire engine turned up.
“In my panic I thought I’d asked for the fire service instead of an ambulance. But I was very relieved when the firefighters took over. They were brilliant, three of them worked on John, shocking his heart back into a rhythm using a defibrillator, while another comforted me. It was very reassuring.”
By the time South East Coast Ambulance, Critical Care Paramedic, Duncan Aldred arrived on the scene, the firefighters, led by Crew Manager, James Heath had John breathing. He was transferred to hospital with Duncan providing post resuscitation care.
After spending five weeks in Kings College Hospital, including eight days on a ventilator and a couple of weeks stabilising from pneumonia, John was fit enough to receive a complete heart bypass and is now back to a normal life, running and playing football again.
John said: “Everyone including me was really shocked, I’ve always been very active and healthy and there were no warning signals. The doctors explained that the quick response and immediate CPR I received made all the difference and gave me the best possible chance of survival.
“I was extremely lucky that Donna knew how to perform CPR and the firefighters and paramedics were quickly on the scene. Had it been Donna who’d collapsed, I wouldn’t have known what to do. When we saw the Restart a Heart drop in sessions advertised at the fire station, we decided to go along.”
The couple not only met the fire crew and paramedic who helped save John’s life but also took part in the vital life-saving training.
In the UK, less than one in ten people survive a cardiac arrest, “It’s so important for people to know that the only thing you can do wrong is to do nothing at all,” said KFRS Crew Manager, James Heath, “At least people have a chance if you’re willing to try.”
SECAmb Critical Care Paramedic Duncan Aldred added: “The fact that John is here today is probably down to the very quick response, rapid recognition and early CPR. Without that, I’m not sure John would have walked back into the fire station.”