On the 3rd of April 2022 at 10:52, my heart stopped beating. I was lucky, I survived due to some incredible people and being in the right place. Not everyone is so fortunate. Only 1 in 10 people survive an Out of Hospital Cardiac Arrest (OHCA).
One year on from my incident, it is time to reflect on a traumatic journey.
My father died in 1994 aged 52 from a heart attack, my brother aged 31 in 1996 also from a heart attack. My sister has also had a heart attack. My cardiac arrest was different from a heart attack, it was explained to me that a heart attack is due to the plumbing of the heart and a cardiac arrest is due to problems with the electrical system.
It has been a very traumatic experience for my family and friends, the last 12 months have been difficult. I do not remember anything about my incident, but the people who saved my life will remember it forever.
It is difficult to explain how much you owe the people who worked to ensure I am writing this blog. These people saved my life, thank you is not enough, and will never be enough.
For anyone who doesn't know my story, you can read it here -
I am lucky, I was with some incredible people, who started CPR immediately, called 999 and the Leisure centre where my heart stopped had a defibrillator, with trained personnel who were at my side in minutes. The Wales Air Ambulance landed within 20 minutes, and the NHS was incredible. Professor Yousef and his team in Cardiff are fantastic.
The aftercare from the Wales Air Ambulance with Jo and her team, and the aftercare in Cardiff with Trudy are invaluable to me and my family. Support groups for Cardiomyopathy and Sudden Cardiac Arrest have been a source of fantastic information and inspiration, listening to other patients and their journeys.
My life is different now, I take medication for my condition (I was diagnosed with Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy), I have an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) and some days are hard, some days the fatigue is too much, but I am thankful that I have a second chance, my father and brother were not so lucky.
I am 52 now, the same age as when my father died and it is hard to imagine leaving my family, my wife and my son at this early stage. Not seeing him grow up, get married and maybe have a family of his own.
We never know how much time we have left and my SCA has given me a different perspective on life. I have experienced death in our family and with my work with the British Nuclear Veterans, but when you realise that it can be taken away from you in an instant, it changes the way you think.
Some days I sit and think about how the last 12 months would have been if I had died that day, how would the family now be, would they be coping, how would their lives be? My physical wounds are healing, but mentally some days can be challenging.
I was told by a friend that it wasn't my time and that I had unfinished business. At that time, we had not received confirmation of a medal for the Nuclear Veterans, which was received on the 22nd of November 2022 and I had the privilege to be present at the ceremony. Maybe it was fate that day, I had people who were CPR trained, instant access to a defibrillator, an air ambulance within 20 minutes, and NHS staff who performed 2 operations.
Support groups both online and face-to-face have been very helpful, listening to other patients who have experienced the same issues and problems, and receiving advice from professionals who understand what you are going through is invaluable.
I now volunteer at the Wales Air Ambulance, giving talks to help raise funds for this essential service. I have undertaken interviews and raised awareness of CPR and the need for more defibrillators. Every year, the Wales Air Ambulance needs to raise £8 million just to keep flying. We never know if we will ever need it, they are on standby 24/7, 365 days a year, and ready to be scrambled at any moment.
I have written a book about my journey, it is available on Amazon and all proceeds go to the Wales Air Ambulance. You can order it here:
In the UK there are over 30,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests (OHCA) a year where emergency medical services attempt to resuscitate the victim.
However, the survival rate is low – just 1 in 10 people in the UK survive an OHCA according to the British Heart Foundation.
Early CPR and defibrillation can double the chances of surviving an OHCA.
For every minute that passes without intervention, the chance of survival decreases by 10 percent.
We are all time-limited, my grandmother used to say 'We are only here for a visit, make the most of it'. We never know when our time is up. So on this day, hug your family and friends, call them and say Hi, and do the things that you have always wanted to do.
Learn CPR. It takes 15 minutes of your time and is free through the British Heart Foundations RevivR program. https://www.bhf.org.uk/revivr
The way I see it, my time has been extended. I am in a much better place now, my ICD protects me and the family has named it 'Arnie' (for obvious reasons). I am very lucky to be here and I will be enjoying what time I have been given. Promise me you will do the same.
Thank you to everyone who has supported me and my family on my journey, my friends and colleagues have all been incredible. To my wife, my son and my family and those who saved me that day, thank you is not enough and never will be.
British Heart Foundation - https://www.bhf.org.uk/
Wales Air Ambulance - https://www.walesairambulance.com/
Cardiomyopathy UK - https://www.cardiomyopathy.org/
Sudden Cardiac Arrest UK - https://www.suddencardiacarrestuk.org/
1 in 10 Survivor - https://www.1in10survive.org/