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St John Volunteer Saves His Dad's life With Defibrillator

Jonathon Neal & Chris Neal

8:04am 17th September 2014

An act of sheer luck has helped a Portland St John Ambulance Volunteer save his own father's life.

When Jonathon Neal took home a defibrillator for safe keeping - he didn't know hours later he would be using it on his Dad.

Chris, 64, suffered a cardiac arrest later that evening, the AED was exactly the piece of equipment Jonathon needed to save his life.

'I was in bed, when my mum came and got me - fortunately, she used to be a nurse and knew dad was in trouble, because of the way he was struggling to breathe in his sleep,' said Jonathon, who has volunteered with St John Ambulance for six years and works as an electrician for Manor Marine.

'I assessed dad's condition - he was unconscious and responsive to pain but nothing else, so I ran downstairs to grab my first aid kit and defibrillator, as well as calling an ambulance.

'I got the AED on him pretty quickly and administered two shocks to get dad's heart back into a normal sinus rhythm.'

Despite having practised using a defibrillator many times, it was the first time Jonathon had used one on a patient.

'At St John Ambulance, we train for this kind of situation all the time but you always hope it will never happen.' Jonathon added.

'I just thought "this is as serious as it gets" and got on with my job.

'I knew dad's life was at stake, but I had to put that to the back of my mind and focus on giving CPR (cardio-pulmonary resuscitation), keeping his airway clear and making sure I could give the best possible handover to the ambulance crew.

'It was sheer luck that I had the AED with me, but I'm so glad that I did and I feel very fortunate to have had my training with St John Ambulance, because thanks to all that we've still got my dad.'

Chris, who suffers with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and had a stent fitted after a heart attack, just one week before the night of his cardiac arrest, wasn't out of the woods yet.

The following morning, at hospital in Dorchester, his heart arrested five times before drug treatments stabilised his condition.

After having a combined pacemaker and defibrillator fitted, he is now recovering at home and grateful for a new lease of life, thanks to Jonathon's swift actions.

'What a fluke!' said Chris, who works for Royal Mail and is now recovering at home. 'I remember nothing about what happened.

'I thought I was doing well, after having my stent. I'd gone to bed as normal, but I came round four days later in Dorchester Hospital.

'The nurses said if it hadn't been for Jonathon using the defibrillator, I wouldn't have stood a chance - I would never have woken up at all.'

In the UK, one person suffers a cardiac arrest every two minutes and as many as one in three will die before they reach hospital.

But survival rates increase by more than 50 per cent if a defibrillator is used within the first four minutes.

Now, father and son, who are members of Wareham Town Band and play the trombone and cornet, respectively, are looking forward to a comeback gig, next month.

'I'm well on the road to recovery and feeling better every day,' Chris added. 'I just want to carry on living from where I left off; only bigger and better.'

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