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No Sign of Life

Published on 20th August 2019

“HELP! Does anybody know CPR?”

Whether you’re experienced in applying initial medical treatment and CPR or have been lucky enough to not experience an incident in your life, the way these words are shouted will always be enough to cause the hairs on the back of your next to stand.

You’ll often hear the term “fight or flight” thrown around, but it’s a real reaction to immediate danger.

In the case of a serious accident, or somebody suddenly collapsing before your eyes, you’d be forgiven for momentarily freezing and being unsure of what to do.

Luckily for a gymgoer in Cobham, Surrey, this wasn’t the case of the coaches of Newwave CrossFit.

For the sake of this article, we’ll call him “Mark”

It won’t happen to me.

Mark had got up early on Saturday 29th June, as he does any other Saturday for his morning training session. An active person, Mark is used to the early morning slog into the gym, occasionally struggling with the motivation to work out, but gets there and puts in the work regardless.

Shortly into his cardio session, Mark had felt unwell and decided to call it a day early. We’ve all been there – some days you just aren’t feeling your best, but you expect a day taking it easy should fix that.

Unfortunately, this wasn’t the case. As Mark left the gym and began to walk across the car park, he suddenly collapsed – unconscious.

“I just turned around and ran back for the defib”

Fraser was stood in the doorway to Newwave CrossFit, welcoming in the 9 am class members as the 8 am class collected themselves after another tough workout.

Like any other day, the gym is busy with members from all walks of life and Fraser was looking forward to another rewarding day as a CrossFit affiliate owner.

This morning though took an unexpected turn.

A member was walking into the gym when they noticed a man lying in another area of the car park with a few people around him. They mentioned this to Fraser, who had recently purchased a defib and received additional first aid training, and he decided to go take a look.

He began jogging across the car park towards Mark was motionless on the floor. As he got within 10 metres, Fraser could tell something was seriously wrong.

“He was just lying there, his face grey and lifeless. There was just no sign of life. I could tell there was something wrong and just turned and ran back to the gym.

I heard one of the others who were near Mark shout ‘HELP! Has anyone got first aid training?’

As I got towards the gym, one of my coaches Dan was looking out to see what was going on and I shouted for him to grab the defib.

Newwave CrossFit is situated on a converted farm just outside of Cobham. Being aware of the risk to staff and members, Fraser had made a decision to purchase a defibrillator at the end of 2018.

Several other businesses share the business estate, which is a 10-minute drive from the main town. Having some first aid training, and a member base which includes paramedics, Fraser knew that this was too far away for an emergency requiring a defibrillator.

Every second count’s

In the case of sudden cardiac arrest, each second is vital. With every minute that passes, the chance of survival drops by 10%.

With each passing minute, the risk of ongoing brain damage also increases.

With this in mind, it is essential to begin CPR and apply a defibrillator within 3 minutes for the best chance of survival.

Dan grabbed the defib and Fraser asked another coach to take over the class as they ran back out of the door.

Another member had worked as an air hostess and had first aid training, whilst Dan and Fraser ran back to the gym, she had rolled Mark over and began CPR.

Meanwhile, the adjacent gym owner was on the phone to 999, relaying essential information.

Calm and well prepared

Luckily, Fraser and his team of coaches had recently completed training with an advanced paramedic, another member of the gym. Although an unofficial training day, it had offered insights into common mistakes made by those using defibs. She was also on her way into the gym that day and calmly talked Fraser and Dan through the situation.

It came as no surprise when the defib advised to deliver a shock. Fraser noticed how Mark still looked totally lifeless, as they began to deliver CPR once again.

After 10 minutes of CPR, the defib delivered its third shock, and some colour began returning to Marks face, giving them hope.

Anyone who has delivered CPR knows only too well the physical demand it places on those delivering. Current NHS CPR guidelines state:

To carry out a chest compression:

  1. Place the heel of your hand on the breastbone at the centre of the person’s chest. Place your other hand on top of your first hand and interlock your fingers.
  2. Position yourself with your shoulders above your hands.
  3. Using your body weight (not just your arms), press straight down by 5 to 6cm (2 to 2.5 inches) on their chest.
  4. Keeping your hands on their chest, release the compression and allow the chest to return to its original position.
  5. Repeat these compressions at a rate of 100 to 120 times a minute until an ambulance arrives or you become exhausted.

Find out more here.

1000+ chest compressions into CPR, the defibrillator advised the fourth shock.

By this point the ambulance was still en route, but nowhere near. Surrey air ambulance was contacted, and crews prepared to take off.

At this point, Mark began to take some shallow breaths. The paramedic on the phone said to raise Mark’s legs, and somebody quickly brought a box to do so.

Mark’s breathing turned into gasping, and a pulse was detected as the ambulance arrived.

45 minutes after collapsing Mark was conscious and talking. The rapid reactions of Fraser, Ben and gym members had turned a disastrous situation into a celebration.

Upon arriving at the hospital, it was diagnosed that Mark has suffered from a blood clot in his artery. This had caused his heart to go out of rhyme and caused the collapse. Undergoing surgery, a stent was put in place and in a matter of days, Mark had made a full recovery.

Mark, Fraser, Dan and the members who helped with lifesaving actions met the following Saturday in a very surreal and emotional reunion.

Sudden cardiac arrest

Sudden Cardiac Arrest is the world’s biggest killer and can strike anyone, anywhere at any time, regardless of how fit and active you might be. In fact, some experts believe that athletes are three times more likely than non-athletes to be victims.

Fiorentina captain Davide Astori died last year from Sudden Cardiac Arrest and there was the famous incident of Fabrice Marumba, the Premiership footballer who collapsed on the pitch during a televised match. Marc-Vivien Foe of Manchester City, Phil O’Donnel of Motherwell, Belgian footballer Gregory Mertens have also been victims.

But it’s not just footballers who are susceptible. The golfer Bernard Gallacher, Ice-hockey players Rich Peverley and Jiri Fisher, rugby star Danny Jones and the 23-year-old cyclist Michael Goolaerts have all suffered Sudden Cardiac Arrest.

More and more communities and sports clubs are investing in defibrillators – and they’re saving lives.

Making a difference

The surrey air ambulance was poised ready to take off to treat Mark after his collapse, as they are for anybody 24/7, every day of the year.

The air ambulance is not part of the NHS. They rely on donation in order to provide the lifesaving service they offer.

Newwave CrossFit is wanting to thank Surrey air ambulance by raising funds to support this amazing organisation.

On Friday 20th September they will be hosting a 24-hour row, looking to row 1 million metres within those 24 hours.

Fraser and his team and urging for people to take part, cheers on participants and ultimately to help raise money for the surrey air ambulance.

If you’re interested in taking part or sponsoring this fundraiser, please email [email protected] for more information.

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