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'On the day I died, I saw my late husband... and he told me it wasn't my time'.

Byline: Craig Thompson Chief Reporter

BINGO worker Sonia Burton was dead for almost an hour before a special message from her late husband brought her back to life.

The mum of four had no pulse for 56 minutes as paramedics repeatedly performed CPR after she suffered a massive heart attack at her bingo hall.

Sonia said: "The only thing I remember is my late husband coming to me and saying 'it's not your time, Sonia, go back to the children.' Then I woke up in hospital."

The mum described herself as a "living miracle" on Tuesday as she was reunited with the two paramedics who never gave up until she was brought back to life.

"Every day I think how incredible it is that I'm still here," she said. "I don't take anything for granted."

On the day she 'died', Sonia had got up and gone about her daily tasks with daughter Rebecca, 30. She had been due to start work at Gala Bingo Hall in Ashington at 5.30pm but went in early at 4.45pm to have a chat with her colleagues and a coffee.

The 50-year-old said: "I mainly work in the dining area and had been heading out of there when I remember getting a pain in my chest and then collapsing."

Out cold, Sonia's frantic boss Karen Arkle began trying to resuscitate her as an ambulance was called.

Within four minutes, paramedic Jason Riches and emergency care assistant Gary French were on the scene, taking over CPR from Karen. They were then backed up nine minutes later by paramedic Stephen Eke and first year student paramedic Rosie Priest.

For the next 56 minutes the team worked to save Sonia as she was transported to the Northumbria Specialist Emergency Care Hospital at Cramlington.

It was while they were trying to save her that Sonia said she got a message from late husband John, who died in 2004 following a heart attack aged 37.

"I spoke to him and he told me that it was not my time and I should go back. To be honest, it felt very comforting."

By the time they arrived at Cramlington hospital, Sonia was still unconscious but had started breathing. She was then transferred to Newcastle's Freeman Hospital, where she underwent life-saving surgery to have a stent fitted in her heart.

Eight days later she was back home being cared for her by brother, Mark, and her four children, Michael, 31, Megan, 22, Rebecca, 30, and 19 year old Thomas.

"It's strange to think I was technically dead for an hour," added Sonia. "If it wasn't for the guys being there so quickly and not giving up on me, it would have been a very different story.

"My mind is a bit forgetful and I'm on a lot of medication but otherwise I'm doing really well - and, at the end of the day, I'm still here."

Sonia's brother Mark, who she lives with, had been walking the dog when he received the call to say his sister had collapsed.

He said: "They were working on her when I got there. It was frantic, there was no life in her at all.

"I said 'please don't stop' and, they never did.

"I couldn't be more thankful for everything Stephen, Jason and Gary did for Sonia that day. To see Sonia like she was that day and to see her now is phenomenal, I can't express just what a good job they've done."

Paramedic Stephen, 43, from Morpeth, said: "Jason and I have over 50 years' experience between us and neither of us have ever seen somebody come back after that length of time.

"We often get a return of a pulse, maybe one out of 10, but usually it's just the adrenaline that's making the heart work again and as soon as that wears off they go back into cardiac arrest. It's unbelievable to see how well Sonia's doing now."

Jason, 44, of Blyth, said: "You go into this job to help people. It's a nice feeling knowing that we were able to make a difference and even better to see what a remarkable recovery she's made."


<BSonia Burton on her wedding day with late husband John Freathy, who died in 2005

<BSonia Burton reunited with the paramedic team who saved her life after she collapsed during a shift at Gala Bingo and was clinically dead for almost an hour. Inset, Sonia at her workplace Claire McKie
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Jan 28, 2016
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