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HEALTH ZONE: Jill Palmer's medical casebook : Could YOU save life of a heart attack victim?; CAMPAIGN TO TEACH US ALL EMERGENCY FIRST AID SKILLS.

Byline: Jill Palmer

BARRY Wilkinson owes his life to a trio of leisure-centre staff who rushed to the rescue when his heart suddenly stopped and he collapsed unconscious.

The three gave 64-year-old Barry mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and shocked him with a defibrillator to restart his heart.

"Without their quick intervention, I would not have stood a chance. I would be dead," says widower Barry from Dawlish, Devon. "I am so grateful they had the skills to save me."

Seven out of 10 cardiac arrests - when the heart suddenly stops pumping - occur outside hospital.

Cardiopulmonary resuscitation is the first, and most vital, link in the chain of survival.

Just three or four minutes' delay can lead to irreversible brain damage.

Yet 98 out of every 100 people are unable to help because they don't know what to do.

The British Heart Foundation is so concerned it has launched a "Learn a Skill, Save a Life" campaign to encourage people to get trained in emergency life-support skills.

The charity's Heartstart courses teach people to recognise a heart attack and carry out CPR techniques, as well as how to deal with choking, serious bleeding and an unconscious casualty.

The free two-hour training courses are available throughout the country.

"In an emergency, prompt action could mean the difference between life and death," says Adrian Clark, national co-ordinator of Heartstart.

"Around 250 people in the UK die every day from cardiac arrest before they reach hospital. Their best chance of survival would be if the first person on the scene was trained in resuscitation.

"There are simply not enough people in Britain trained in emergency life support, which means that many people could be dying each year because no one was able to keep them alive before the experts arrived.

"Giving cardiopulmonary respiration to someone in cardiac arrest doubles their chances of survival."

More than 270,000 people a year in the UK suffer a heart attack - when one of the arteries supplying blood to the heart becomes blocked.

In one in three cases the patient dies before reaching hospital, having gone into cardiac arrest when the heart stops pumping and the victim loses consciousness. Then cardiopulmonary resuscitation, involving mouth-to-mouth and chest compression, is essential to keep the patient alive until a defibrillator, a machine which delivers an electric shock to restart the heart rhythm, arrives.

With rare exceptions, waiting for paramedics is usually too late.

Only between two and three per cent of people in cardiac arrest outside hospital survive.

Luckily for grandfather-of-three Barry, staff at the Dawlish Leisure Centre in Devon, where he collapsed in March, had the expertise and equipment to save him.

Duty manager Brian Robinson and leisure assistants Jamie Day and Alex Foote, like all staff at the pool, gym and sports hall, are qualified in first aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation. They have also been trained in using the defibrillator, which was given to the centre by the British Heart Foundation.

"I was using the rowing machine in the gym when it happened and was not doing anything too strenuous," says Barry.

"I stopped for a breather after about three minutes and when I bent forward to start again everything went blank.

"The next thing I knew I was in the ambulance on my way to hospital.

"Those lads saved my life. Apparently they were with me in seconds, giving me mouth-to-mouth and banging my chest and then shocking my heart with the defibrillator."

BARRY spent six weeks in hospital where he underwent heart bypass surgery.

He is making an excellent recovery and has returned to the gym for a programme of exercise for heart victims.

"All our staff are fully trained in lifesaving skills and have to requalify every two years," explains leisure centre manager Ian Matthews.

"When Mr Wilkinson collapsed, the alarm was raised by a member of the public who was in the gym at the same time.

"Alex and Jamie were on the scene within seconds and started resuscitation, while Brian went for the defibrillator.

"Thankfully, he only needed one shock before his heart started again.

"By then the ambulance had arrived and he was taken to hospital.

"We are obviously all delighted that he has made a full recovery."

-FOR details of Heartstart courses, call the "Learn a Skill, Save a Life" campaign line 0870 9090111 or visit


-PLACE two fingers under the point of the chin, lift the jaw and gently tilt the head back.

-LOOK, listen and feel for signs of breathing.

-CLOSE the nostrils with fingers/thumb and blow into the mouth until you see the chest rise. This takes about two seconds.

-REMOVE your lips and allow the chest to fall fully which takes around four seconds.

-CHECK for signs of circulation by feeling for a pulse between the windpipe and large neck muscle.

-IF NO signs start chest compressions. Find notch at bottom of breast bone and measure two fingers width above this. Place the heel of one hand there and place the other hand on top.

-PRESS down firmly and smoothly 15 times at the rate of about 100 times a minute.

-CONTINUE cycle of two breaths then 15 chest compressions.


DRAMA: Jamie Day, heart attack victim Barry Wilkinson, and Brian Robinson; Picture: GEORGE PHILLIPS
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2001 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jul 19, 2001
Previous Article:HEALTH ZONE: My Life Lisa Snowdon.
Next Article:HEALTH ZONE: Jill Palmer's medical casebook : MEDICAL NOTES.

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