‘Fit as a fiddle’ John Hughes suffered a sudden cardiac arrest and said it was ‘a miracle’ that so many heroes were on hand to help
Pictured L-R are Sally Macdonald, Luke Hughes, Keith Jones CFR, John Hughes, David Mackenzie CFR and Mandy Hughes
A postman from Denbigh who doubles as a Community First Responder has spoken of how he assisted in saving the life of a postal service colleague.
David Mackenzie, 57, had signed on for his volunteer duties as he does every weekend, but was totally unaware that he would soon be involved in a dramatic medical response to a “fit as a fiddle” co-worker who suffered a cardiac arrest.
David explained: “It was a Sunday afternoon and I had just finished handing over a patient to an ambulance crew when another call came into me.
“It was a top priority ‘Red’ call at an address across town which I recognised to be that of my colleague of seven years, John Hughes.
“I got up there and luckily there was somebody already doing chest compressions on him.
“Another CFR colleague had also received the alert and had arrived with a defibrillator.”
Community First Responders are volunteers who attend 999 calls in their community and administer first aid in the precious first minutes before an ambulance arrives.
They are trained by the Welsh Ambulance Service to administer first aid, including oxygen therapy and cardiopulmonary resuscitation, as well as the use of a defibrillator.
In what transpired to be a miraculous chain of events, several people local to John were on hand to begin the chain of survival that eventually kept him alive in March this year.
John Hughes, 57, said: “It was about 4.20pm and I just sat down after tea and died basically, or so they tell me.
“I had no idea whatsoever that I was ill and with my job I walk six days a week so am fit as a fiddle.”
“My wife Mandy was first on my chest.
“Then my son Luke took over whilst she ran for help and luckily one of our neighbours, Sally Macdonald, was on her way out and Mandy grabbed her.”
Sally happened to be a Nurse Practitioner in the local health board area so was well trained in CPR (although it was the first time she’d ever had to use her training in real life) and took over from Luke in providing chest compressions.
Another resident on the street, John Cluckie had seen Mandy’s panic and was also on hand to help out.
Neighbour Keith Jones, who is also a CFR, had received a notification on his phone by the emergency medical responder app GoodSAM and he arrived with a defibrillator and shocked John four times.
“It’s a miracle it all came together like it did,” said John.
“You couldn’t write it in a script.
“I’d be dead without them.
“I thank them all so much.”
John spent two nights in hospital where a stent was fitted through his arm and connected to his heart to help keep a damaged artery open.
John and Mandy have also met with the CFRs and others involved to personally thank them.
In his 11 years’ experience as a CFR, David has witnessed and achieved many successful resuscitations but said: “I have never seen anyone come round like that.
“He was sat up on the couch talking in no time.
“The Wales Air Ambulance had landed nearby and they came in with the ambulance crew and travelled with them by road to Glan Clwyd Hospital to monitor John.
“It was a real team effort but I can’t praise Sally the nurse enough, she was absolutely fantastic.”
David was one of the original team of CFRs in Denbigh when the service was set up there in 2010, but this was not the first time he had had to provide emergency treatment to a colleague.
Recalling an incident a few years ago, he said: “A CFR colleague of mine had a heart attack on the industrial estate in Denbigh and I had to attend to him – sadly he didn’t make it.
“I can’t count of the amount of cardiac arrests I have been to, young and old, but there has only been one incident for which I needed counselling.”
CFRs have full access to the range of wellbeing and mental health support that all employees of the Welsh Ambulance Service enjoy, something David speaks highly of.
He said: “The lady who counselled me was brilliant and even now if I see her out on the road she still asks how I’m doing and if certain feelings are still happening and checks up on me.”
John has since returned to his post round in Denbigh and says he feels as good as he ever did.
“You would never know I had had a cardiac arrest,” he said.
“After starting gradually, I have now been back at work full time for a month.”