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Celebrating survivors

A new Guinness World Record looks a safe bet after 127 cardiac arrest survivors gathered at Basildon University Hospital.

Survivors, aged 11 to 80, and their families attended the event on Saturday 9 June, which was organised by Sudden Cardiac Arrest UK in conjunction with The Essex Cardiothoracic Centre and SADS UK.

Guinness World Record has to officially verify the attempt, which could take several weeks however organisers are confident it has been broken. To create a new world record, 50 cardiac arrest survivors had to participate.

Paul Swindell, from Benfleet Essex, set up the Sudden Cardiac Arrest UK support group following his cardiac arrest in April 2014, at the age of 48. As a key organiser of the event, he was thrilled with the turn-out. He said: “People have travelled from across the UK, by train, plane and automobile to be here at the world record attempt. Although we won’t know officially for a few weeks, I’m confident that we’ve done it.

“It’s been a fantastic event. It’s great to see so many survivors all together, swapping stories and being part of something as special as a world record attempt.”

Cardiac arrest can happen to anyone regardless of age, fitness or general health. It is not the same as a heart attack. A cardiac arrest occurs when the heart suddenly stops pumping blood around the body. The person will suddenly lose consciousness and stop breathing or stop breathing normally. It needs immediate treatment with CPR or the person will die within minutes. A heart attack is sudden interruption to the blood supply to part of the heart muscle, causing chest pain and permanent damage to the heart. But the person remains conscious and breathing.

Louise Fraser, cath lab nurse in the Essex Cardiothoracic Centre, volunteered to help out at the event. She said: “I’m blown away by today. It’s inspiring to be around so many amazing cardiac arrest survivors. As nurses we don’t often hear about how our patients get on after they leave our care. It’s so important to have support groups and events such as this, to give survivors and their relatives that support network they need.”

Dan Fagg

As one of the youngest cardiac arrest survivors, 11-year-old Dan Fagg from Doncaster (pictured above), had the honour of cutting a huge celebration cake. He was 10-years-old when he collapsed playing football.

He said: “I scored and was running up the pitch celebrating when I collapsed. I tried to get back up but fell down again. I don’t remember anything until I woke up in hospital and thought I was still at home.”

His dad Anthony, the football team’s manager, and mum Hayley Thomson, rushed over from the pitch sidelines. The referee gave CPR until the paramedics arrived and Dan was airlifted to a nearby children’s hospital. They decided to attend the Guinness World Record attempt so Dan could meet other survivors his own age.

Hayley said: “I joined the Sudden Cardiac Arrest UK facebook group and it was an absolute lifeline. I could ask any question and learnt so much. It’s not just the physical effects of what’s happened and the fact Dan had to have two further operations. It’s the psychological side of things too. There is one other survivor Dan’s age and a shame there’s not more here today, but we’ve spoken to lots of families and really enjoyed the day.”

John Julia and Darran Gange

Another survivor is 78-year-old John Gange, who travelled with his wife Julia and son Darran (all pictured above) from the Isle of Wight after Julia saw the event advertised on Sudden Cardiac Arrest UK’s website.

John had his cardiac arrest in March 2017. The night before he had been a work in his coach business and was the life and soul of the party as he drove his customers. But the following morning he collapsed.

Julia said: “He looked in pain then he collapsed and stopped breathing. I rang 999 and the operator talked me through CPR which I did until the ambulance arrived. He was in intensive care when they said he needed to come off the machines and I had to tell him if he wanted to stay, he needed to breathe on his own.

“Slowly he has come back to us. But the side effects, the psychological effects, have been a bit of a shock. That’s why I wanted to come today – to meet other survivors and relatives who may have had similar experiences.”

John, who used to be a ship’s engineer, doesn’t remember any of what happened. Since the attack he has had a stent and balloon inserted in his heart and attends regular rehab sessions. He said: “The NHS has done very well. My treatment has been excellent.” 

In addition to the world record attempt, there were educational seminars and exhibitions, including talks from cardiac specialists and cardiac related charities relating to all aspects of post cardiac arrest care.

Dr Tom Keeble, cardiac consultant, said: “This day is all about the patients, education and making things better for the future. A huge thank you to Sudden Cardiac Arrest UK, SADS UK and all the volunteers who made it an incredible experience for both patients and healthcare professionals.”

The event continued into the evening, with a ‘celebration of life’ party at Ye Olde Plough House in Bulphan, with a hog roast, live music and a magician.

Cutting the cake

Some of the survivors help Dan Fagg, 11, cut the cake

Organisers          

Sudden Cardiac Arrest UK reps with Basildon hospital staff.

Sads

Anne Jolly MBE, SADS UK

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  • Basildon and Thurrock University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
    Nethermayne, Basildon
    Essex  SS16 5NL
    Switchboard: 01268 524900

  • The Essex Cardiothoracic Centre
    Nethermayne, Basildon
    Essex SS16 5NL
    Switchboard: 01268 524900

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