Cardiac arrest survivor reunited with brave villagers who saved his life

3 September 2018        

Category: Survival and support

 Five people who saved the life of a man have been recognised by the British Heart Foundation. Alan Thompson, pictured centre (blue jacket, white shirt), suffered a sudden cardiac arrest whilst cycling through the village of Smisby. Pictured left to right with Alan is Ian Higginbotham, Mike Cuming, Tony Louca-Weston, Nicola Abell and Laura Redfern.

A cardiac arrest survivor has been reunited with the brave people who saved his life.

Alan Thompson, aged 61, was cycling through the village of Smisby in Derbyshire when he suffered a sudden cardiac arrest.

It was only thanks to the quick response of five people he had never met before – Ian Higginbotham, Laura Redfern, Nicola Abell, Mike Cuming and Tony Louca-Weston – that Alan was able to be saved. Their actions have now been recognised by the British Heart Foundation (BHF).

Alan, a father-of-two and grandfather-of-one from Swadlincote, suffered an out of hospital cardiac arrest on June 27th 2018. A cardiac arrest occurs when the heart suddenly stops pumping blood around the body, often because of a problem with the electrical signals to the heart muscle. Someone who is having a cardiac arrest will suddenly collapse and will stop breathing.

At the time of the event, Alan was on a bike ride with his brother, David and the two had approached a T-junction on Main Street, Smisby, on the approach to the B5006 Derby Road. It was the first time in 30 years that Alan and David – both keen cyclists – had decided to cycle through Smisby.

Villagers rushed to Alan’s aid

“My brother heard me make a grunting sound immediately before I fell sideways off my bike and into my brother, knocking him to the ground as I fell,” said Alan.

“David told me that his first thought was that I’d forgotten to unclip from my pedals. However, as he looked at me he realised that it was something more serious, but at that stage his mind was racing as to what it could be. Then the realisation hit him that on his own, it would be unlikely that he would be able to cope, as he only had a vague and rusty knowledge of CPR. In truth, I was told I had gone into ventricular fibrillation, which caused my cardiac arrest.”

As Alan fell off his bike, Laura and Nicola, who both work at the nearby Smisby Day Nursery, turned into Main Street. After witnessing Alan collapsing, they knew instantly that something major was wrong.

Whilst David called 999, Nicola called her Managing Director, Ian, who raced to the scene and took over CPR from the women. Laura ran to retrieve a defibrillator from outside Smisby Village Hall, around 300 metres away from the scene of the incident. The defibrillator had been supplied following a campaign led by Ruth Green, a respiratory doctor who lives in the village. In another stroke of luck, the defibrillator had undergone its annual check just days before, and new pads had been fitted to the device.

As they waited for Laura to retrieve the defibrillator, more people came to Alan’s aid. Ian performed chest compressions to Alan whilst passing motorist Tony carried out rescue breaths.

They had been joined by pilot Mike, who was also assisting with rescue efforts. He used the public access defibrillator, which delivered an electric shock to the heart.

Soon after, crews from East Midlands Ambulance Service arrived at the scene to provide advanced clinical intervention and rushed Alan to the Royal Derby Hospital. He was admitted to intensive care, where he had two stents fitted. Alan was able to leave hospital five days later and is now recovering well.

But for Alan, the situation would have been very different if it wasn’t for the group of lifesavers.

Alan, a former senior manager in the brewing industry, said: “I know that I am incredibly lucky. I could not have been in a better place nor had a better group of people to hand as my cardiac arrest occurred.

“I shall be eternally grateful to them.”

The group was reunited with Alan and his family at a meal held in Ashby-de-la-Zouch on Friday, 31st August. There, they received the BHF’s CPR Hero certificate, in recognition of their quick-thinking actions.

'Having the bravery to help could save a life'

One of the lifesavers, Ian, aged 55 and a former firefighter, said: “Being in the fire service, I had performed CPR a number of times before and sadly, none of those attempts had been successful. The fact Alan is here today is all thanks to everyone that came to his aid.

“I would say to anyone who finds themselves in a situation like we did, and has had any CPR training, no matter how long ago, to not be afraid to use these skills. Having the bravery to step in and help could save a life, which is exactly what we did. The person you are helping probably has zero percent chance of surviving without your help. Anything you do has to be positive.”

Chances of survival fall each minute without CPR and defibrillation

In the UK, there are an estimated 30,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests every year and, tragically, less than one in 10 people survive. Evidence suggests that public access defibrillators are currently used in less than 3 per cent of out-of-hospital cardiac arrests.

The BHF recently announced it would be launching a new initiative in partnership with Microsoft and the NHS, to map defibrillators across the UK. This will allow 999 call handlers to direct bystanders to their nearest defibrillator when someone suffers a cardiac arrest. It is thought that this ground-breaking move could save thousands of lives.

Sara Askew, Head of Survival at the BHF said: “For every minute that passes without CPR and defibrillation, a person’s chances of surviving a cardiac arrest falls by around 10 per cent.

“We encourage all communities and schools to learn life saving CPR skills and know the whereabouts of their nearest public access defibrillator, so that they are equipped with the skills and knowledge to help save a life."

find out more about how to learn life saving CPR skills