Man’s heart stops beating for 68 minutes before wife saves him with cardiopulmonary resuscitation

November 16, 2018
Cardiopulmonary resuscitation

Chris Hickey, 63, was medically dead for over an hour -- but brought back to life thanks to his wife Sue’s quick actions.

After finding him in cardiac arrest she performed CPR until medics arrived.

Here Sue, also 63, tells Grace Mackaskill why knowing this life-saving skill is vital.

When I heard a strange noise as I made a cup of tea around 7am one morning, I thought one of our cats was trying to clear a fur ball.

But when I spotted them sitting happily, I called to Chris who was still asleep -- and got no response.

I ran upstairs. He was lying on the bed having a spasm.

I heard him make what I recognized as a death rattle noise and then nothing. All the color had drained from his face.

For that split second, I panicked.

Then I remembered a post I’d seen on Facebook that same morning from a nurse.

She said you should call 999 straight away in an emergency, before doing anything else.

The terror I’d felt in those first few moments slid away as I picked up the phone and focused everything on helping my husband.

I listened intently as the operator told me to open the front door so emergency responders could get in.

Then they talked me through how to give cardiopulmonary resuscitation -- known as CPR.

The first step was to drag Chris off the bed to place him on the flat surface of the floor.

Next I was instructed to start compressions on his chest.

“Don’t worry,” they told me. “Try to put as much into each compression as you can.”

They were so clear and calm.

For five minutes I sat there, squashed between our bed and the wardrobe, pushing down hard with both hands on my husband’s chest, willing him to live.

To my surprise, the first people to arrive were firefighters.

We live about 500 yards from a fire station in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, and they are trained to help casualties until paramedics turn up.

Three burly men took over with a defibrillator and I became just a concerned onlooker.

After 20 minutes, there was no response from Chris but I knew inside he would be fighting.

He’s a man so full of life -- I knew it wasn’t his time to go.

Paramedics arrived and took over, fighting to restart my husband’s heart while I sat downstairs in the kitchen, staring at a family photograph.

Chris looked so vibrant and alive in it. I feared the worst but tried to stay calm.

I listened intently as the operator told me to open the front door so emergency responders could get in.

Then they talked me through how to give cardiopulmonary resuscitation -- known as CPR.

The first step was to drag Chris off the bed to place him on the flat surface of the floor.

Next I was instructed to start compressions on his chest.

“Don’t worry,” they told me. “Try to put as much into each compression as you can.”

They were so clear and calm.

For five minutes I sat there, squashed between our bed and the wardrobe, pushing down hard with both hands on my husband’s chest, willing him to live.

To my surprise, the first people to arrive were firefighters.

We live about 500 yards from a fire station in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, and they are trained to help casualties until paramedics turn up.

Three burly men took over with a defibrillator and I became just a concerned onlooker.

After 20 minutes, there was no response from Chris but I knew inside he would be fighting.

He’s a man so full of life -- I knew it wasn’t his time to go.

Paramedics arrived and took over, fighting to restart my husband’s heart while I sat downstairs in the kitchen, staring at a family photograph.

Chris looked so vibrant and alive in it. I feared the worst but tried to stay calm.

Luckily for all of us, the stars had aligned – medics from the Great Western Air Ambulance turned up, landing their helicopter in our road.

Each service is only allowed to work on a patient for 20 minutes so having three different crews meant the compressions continued as each one took over from the last.

But after 50 minutes, the air ambulance doctor came to me.

They had done everything they could for Chris but he wasn’t responding.

I picked up the picture and showed it to the doctor so he could see who he was working on.

“Please,” I begged. “Just a few more minutes,” He agreed.

And 68 minutes after it had stopped beating, Chris’s heart started again.

He wasn’t out of the woods, however, and was immediately flown to Bristol Royal Infirmary and put into a coma.

We were told to prepare for the worst but, after three days, Chris came round.

The first thing he did was kiss me through his oxygen mask. When he saw our daughter Ailsa, 26, he gave a big grin.

The doctors later told us that acting fast had saved his life.

Every one minute delay in giving CPR decreases someone’s chances of survival. I’m so proud of what I did. We are very lucky.”

Chris said: “Sue saved my life. If she hadn’t acted so quickly I would not be here today.

“It shows how important CPR is and I think it should be a life skill. I feel luckier than the luckiest lottery winner!”

By Grace Macaskill