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Cardiac arrest survivor reunited with lifesavers

Press release - 26 October 2010

A Surrey man who suffered a cardiac arrest when he was cycling through Farnham has been reunited with his lifesavers.

Keith Aston, 71, who has made an amazing recovery, has now vowed to spread the importance of people learning Cardio-Pulmonary Resuscitation, (CPR), basic life support and first aid.

Keith, who suffered a Sudden Cardiac Arrest, (SCA), recently met with the first South East Coast Ambulance Service NHS Trust (SECAmb) paramedic on scene, Stuart Aslett and member of the public Joanna Michaelides who stopped when driving past to perform vital CPR in the minutes before ambulance clinicians arrived at the scene in Arthur Road, Farnham, on 20 September 2009.

Keith, from Farnham and Joanna, 32, who now lives in Brentford, were first reunited in August this year. They have now committed to working together to stress the importance of witnesses recognising the symptoms of SCA and knowing how urgent it is that someone at the scene begins CPR immediately and calls 999.

SECAmb paramedic Stuart, from Farnborough station, was delighted to meet the pair and said: “It was an honour to meet Keith and hear of his fantastic recovery. Without Joanna’s quick thinking on the day the outcome is likely to have been very different. I echo Keith and Joanna’s plea that more people spare just a few hours of their lives to learn how to potentially save others.”

Keith felt as fit as ever throughout 2009 having completed a number of long-distance bike rides including the British Heart Foundation’s (BHF) London to Brighton event. However, on Sunday, September 20 2009, his usual Sunday routine was dramatically interrupted when he suffered the cardiac arrest.

A crowd of people quickly gathered in an attempt to help Keith but CPR only began when trained first aider, Joanna, who was driving past with her three-month-old baby, Harry, stopped to see if she could help.

She quickly assessed the situation and began CPR when she realised he had no pulse and wasn’t breathing. Another passer-by, Chris Birney, also from Farnham, who was first on the scene, was quick to dial 999 – although due to Keith’s condition he did not recognise that it was his friend of more than 30 years who was in desperate need of medical attention.

Joanna expertly provided CPR until paramedic Stuart arrived and was able to deliver shocks to Keith’s heart with a defibrillator. He was then rushed to Frimley Park Hospital and with Stuart’s SECAmb colleagues, fellow paramedic Mark Newton and Technician Trevor Cooper who continued to administer shocks until Keith’s heart restarted.

Keith spent two weeks in Frimley Park’s intensive and critical care units. He was then transferred to St George’s Hospital in Tooting to have an Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD) fitted before being discharged in time for his 70th birthday party on October 10.

Keith, who less than a year after his ordeal, completed another 200 mile bike ride for the BFH, said: “I’m in no doubt Joanna saved my life. My story emphasises the precious minutes which matter when someone suffers a cardiac arrest. I want everyone to learn how urgent it is to get CPR started immediately, whether or not they know how to do it themselves.”

“It was great to meet Stuart recently and I’m so thankful for everyone who helped on the day and throughout my time in hospital. Now I want to ensure that something positive comes out of this. Joanna and I are already planning how we can help increase awareness of the importance of everyone taking time to learn how to save a life.”

Joanna said: “I’m ordinary. I’m not one of the many admirable people who dedicate their lives to saving others. I’m an ex-actress turned administrator who just happened to learn CPR. I never thought I would have to use it. Since meeting Keith and his family I’ve learnt just what a difference spending a few hours to learn these skills can mean to someone. When Keith had his cardiac arrest every person at the scene was desperate to help him. I was just lucky that I could. We now want to encourage as many people as possible to learn first aid. You never know – it could be the difference between life and death.”

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