Sometimes it takes an event in your life to realise that your time is limited, we do not know when our time will end.
It is not until we have a health scare or lose a loved one that we realise that some stresses in life are just not worth worrying about.
The world is a very difficult place to be at the moment, the cost of living crisis is affecting many of us, and just surviving is becoming increasingly hard.
I experienced a life-changing event on the 3rd April 2022, which will change my life going forward. I wanted to share the incident and how fragile our lives are and that things can change in an instant. Someone's life is changing right now.
I am extremely lucky to be writing this blog, as 7 weeks ago, I collapsed, with no pulse and I was lying dead on the floor. Without my football colleagues who administered CPR and staff at Caldicott Leisure Centre where a defibrillator was available and the staff trained to shock me back to life, two air ambulances, and the NHS, my family would have buried me.
It has been 7 weeks since that incident, I left for a football match and almost never came home. I am one of the lucky ones, families lose their loved ones every day to disease, accidents, terrorism, and war. I had extremely good medical care, the Wales Air Ambulance service was amazing, and the NHS was incredible, but others are not so lucky and lose their fight.
My family has been through an emotional rollercoaster ride over the past six weeks, my wife Mel has been unbelievable, so strong and she has had to care for me whilst I recover from what is now a condition that I will be living with forever. My son was present when I collapsed and he has been through a lot with his own health issues. The support of my teammates, our friends, medical professionals, and online support groups has been exceptional.
I have had two stents fitted and have been diagnosed with Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM), which is a thickening of the heart wall which makes it increasingly difficult for the heart to function. It is a hereditary condition. My father died in 1994, aged 52 from ischemic heart disease, my brother in 1996 from the same condition. My sister has also had a heart attack. I will find out soon if I have a faulty gene that causes HCM. If I do, my son will need to be tested for the gene, he has already undertaken an ECG and an echocardiogram, which showed no signs of the disease.
When you have a near-death experience, it does change your outlook on life, you realise that the world as you know it can change in an instant, with no warning. Many of you reading this will know that my father was present on Christmas Island for nuclear bomb testing, he saw 24 explosions in 78 days as part of Operation Dominic. We do not know if my condition had anything to do with the tests, but my sister was also born blind in one eye and that is an undiagnosed condition that has baffled the medical profession.
Many people are struggling at the moment, paying bills, heating their house, and feeding themselves. It shouldn't be like this, people should not be deciding on whether to feed their children or themselves, relying on food banks or free school meals. The stress placed on these individuals is enormous, what this is doing to the mental and physical health of many people is beyond measurement.
I am now part of many support groups and want to help as many people as I can understand that having a defibrillator at sports events should be mandatory, and that screening of individuals should be part of the NHS range of services as default. We should not be waiting until it is too late. Early intervention and screening saves lives. Without the defibrillator at Caldicott Leisure centre, I would be dead. Yesterday, I attended CPR training given by a retired nurse, who gave my football teammates instructions on CPR and how to use a defibrillator. This training is invaluable, I hope I do not need to use it, but I now understand the process and know that I may be able to save someone's life as they did mine. Everyone should understand how to perform basic CPR and how to use a defibrillator.
I am now living with HCM (Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy), I have an ICD fitted in my chest which will pace my heart and shock me should I experience another cardiac arrest. I am now in a better position physically than I was 7 weeks ago, but how many people are walking around at the moment with the same condition and they do not know about it? Without regular screening, they might not be as lucky as I was.
It will take time mentally for my family and me to process this incident, with the help of patient liaison services from the Wales Air Ambulance, we now know the extent of my condition, what happened, and what care I received. Online support groups for ICD and Cardiomyopathy have been a great help, understanding that you are not alone, no matter what your situation, helps a lot.
There is always help available to you, support groups, online chats, charities, not-for-profit organisations, Community Interest Companies, neighbours, family, and friends. We must never feel that we are alone in this world, there are some amazing people out there who are willing to help in any situation. In Ukraine, people are risking their lives to help others.
If you are able, undergo CPR training, and learn how to use a defibrillator. Encourage any team, social club, or group that you are a member of to also undergo the training. From 2022, in Wales, children will have the opportunity under the new curriculum to learn CPR, which is very encouraging, but I believe basic first aid should be mandatory in schools, as it could save a life.
My condition is nowhere as bad as others, I will learn to live with it, but I am thankful to everyone who has helped me in my treatment and my recovery. Please reach out for help. You will be surprised just how many people will help in this world, look after yourself, do not stress about things that you cannot control, if you are able, help others, call in on the neighbour, ring a friend, check in on them. Sometimes a phone call goes a long way to helping someone.
The last 7 weeks have changed my outlook on life, things I was dealing with become insignificant, and I realise that certain situations were insignificant and that certain people were not worth my time worrying about.
Don't wait until it is too late. I have a second chance at life, and I will be making the most of it, helping as many people as I can, raising awareness of the nuclear testing program, educating people, and speaking about the need for CPR training, defibrillators, and for early intervention screening.
I was told that it was not my time to go, that I still had a purpose. I believe I know that purpose and I will help as many people as possible. We can all help each other, no matter how small, we all have a gift to give.
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