In July 2021, Gary and his wife Penny packed their bags and headed off to the Isle of Wight to visit friends and family – but it was a trip that would change their lives forever and ended with Gary being airlifted to hospital in a critical condition.
The Eastleigh couple, who have been married for 33 years, were enjoying a pub lunch at The Griffin in Godshill when Gary’s heart suddenly stopped. He had gone into cardiac arrest and was turning blue. One of their friends commenced CPR, but there was no sign of Gary responding.
2 nurses, Gemma and Jo, who happened to be in the pub and saw the commotion, rushed to Gary’s side. The ‘absolute life-savers’, as Penny calls them, took over CPR. Penny recalls:
“We were shouting for him to come back and that he couldn’t die now. But it was just a losing battle. I was so scared. There was nothing more that she (the nurse) could do; she couldn’t keep him alive any longer”.
Moments later, paramedics and doctors from Hampshire and Isle of Wight Air Ambulance touched down in a nearby park and arrived on scene.
“They were amazing — they took over the situation and they just knew what to do. They were so professional and caring, keeping me informed of everything they were doing to Gary”.
The HEMS team took over CPR, set up a LUCAS mechanical CPR machine and loaded Gary into the helicopter before flying him directly to University Hospital Southampton.
“In the morning me and my friend were going to go kayaking — it would have been a totally different story then. Penny’s niece had recommended a cider farm and pub that was nearby, so we decided to go to the pub instead.
“I can’t remember much about it. They tell me I wasn’t quite being myself beforehand, so maybe something was already happening”.
Gary was discharged from Southampton Hospital after 5 long weeks with an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) fitted, which monitors the heart in case of similar incidents in future.
Now, reflecting on the incident, Gary has spoken about his experience. He says:
“Without them, I wouldn’t be here today. There’s no way I would have survived”.
It’s not just Gary, adds Penny:
“Without the Air Ambulance so many people would have lost their lives. And this has really brought it home. We didn’t realise it was a charity: we always thought it was Government funded. But we know how much they need our support.
“Thank God for the Air Ambulance, for Jo and for Gemma. Thankfully, it just wasn’t Gary’s time”.
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