My cardiac arrest was caught on video
Originally published at bhf.org.uk, written by Lee Kettle.
“It feels so surreal to think it even happened,” he said.
“Watching the video back is quite tough — it almost feels like it isn’t me.”
Sunday 19th November 2017 was meant to be any normal day for Mark, a dad-of-two from Bishop’s Stortford in Hertfordshire.
He had returned from an international karate tournament and that morning, the self-confessed fitness fanatic — who is no stranger to taking part in marathons, triathlons and long-distance bike rides — had gone for a gentle four-mile run with his wife, Hayley.
“After about a mile into the run I complained to my wife of a pain in my chest,” he added.
“But as I carried on running the pain subsided and neither myself nor my wife thought any more of it.”
‘It came completely out of the blue’
Mark continued his day as planned and in the afternoon, he went along to the weekly ‘fight club’ held at his karate club. Here, members of the team spar against each other — and they set up a camera to film the session, so they can identify areas of improvement for future.
In the footage, Mark is seen sparring with his friend, Stephen Hare. Then, Mark groggily takes a few steps back and collapses on the floor in full view of the camera.
“It came completely out of the blue,” recalled Mark.
“One minute I was sparring with my friend and the next, my legs buckled from underneath me.”
Difference between life and death
Mark collapsed because he had a cardiac arrest, when the heart suddenly stops pumping blood around the body. Unless treated immediately, it can lead to death within minutes.
However, luckily, Stephen had learned CPR. As the footage shows, he rushed to Mark’s side and began carrying out rescue breaths and chest compressions, whilst another member of the club phoned 999.
“Seeing Mark collapse in front of me gave me the realisation of how quickly life can be extinguished,” said Stephen.
“He was clinically dead for several minutes and if I didn’t start CPR, that could have been the difference between life and death for Mark.”
During the incident, Mark began to make infrequent, noisy gasps, known as agonal breaths. As this isn’t normal breathing, the 999 operator informed Stephen to continue CPR.
Within minutes, paramedics arrived on scene and took over CPR. They also used a defibrillator, which delivered a shock to Mark’s heart.
‘I was very lucky’
Although a tough watch, the footage from that day shows Mark being successfully resuscitated at the scene. He was taken to Lister Hospital in Stevenage, where he had an emergency procedure to insert a stent before being placed into an induced coma.
Amazingly — and thanks to the actions of those who came to his aid that day — Mark suffered no long-term damage to his brain. He has since been able to make a full recovery, and has now returned to teaching karate. Mark even took on the London to Brighton Off-Road Bike Ride in September to raise funds for the BHF.
Mark, who works as a building surveyor, knows he is fortunate.
“Luckily that day, they rang 999, Steve knew CPR and the paramedics turned up within about five minutes,” he added.
“I was very lucky. The actions of my friends, the paramedics and everyone at Lister Hospital that dealt with me saved my life.”
A life saving skill
There are more than 30,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests in the UK each year and less than 1 in 10 people survive.
For every minute that passes without CPR and defibrillation, a person’s chances of surviving a cardiac arrest falls by around 10 per cent.
The British Heart Foundation is working to build a nation of life savers, where everyone knows how to step in to save a life. CPR training in workplaces, schools and communities means that more people will survive an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest.
Thanks to years of tireless campaigning to get first aid and CPR onto the curriculum by the BHF and other organisations, the Westminster government have announced that first aid and CPR will be added to the primary and secondary school curriculum in England from September 2020.
Portable CPR coach
First aiders could soon be equipped with better knowledge of CPR thanks to a new project funded by the BHF.
Researchers at University College London have been awarded £250,000 to develop a portable, ‘pocket’ CPR-feedback coach.
The device, which will be thin and low-cost, will work out the best chest compression force for each individual patient. This means it could be used for children.
If successful, the research will help get the device into trials with people, which means it could soon be helping those performing life saving CPR.
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My cardiac arrest was caught on video was originally published in British Heart Foundation on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.