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John Walton, 72, from Dudley, West Midlands, was playing a game of squash with a friend at the local leisure centre. What started out as just another competitive match between the gents soon became a race against time to save John’s life.


In January 2020, John, who was 71 at the time, was an active man enjoying his regular game of squash with his friend of 40 years, Clive Fletcher. After 35 minutes of friendly competition, John became unwell rather quickly, his breathing became laboured and his heart went into cardiac arrest. John then collapsed as he went to hit the squash ball and fell, bruising his face.


Clive, having realised what had happened to John, instantly began administering CPR and called for help from the leisure centre staff. To give John the best chance of survival, whilst another squash player called 999 for emergency services, staff members at the sports centre made use of the onsite defibrillator to take over from Clive’s chest compressions.


It took staff at the sports centre six minutes and three attempts to get John’s heart restarted.


Two ambulances and a paramedic officer from West Midlands Ambulance Service arrived on scene and continued CPR.


In addition, a critical care paramedic for Midlands Air Ambulance Charity was also deployed to the scene as he was manning the organisation’s critical care car.


The chances of surviving a cardiac arrest outside of the hospital environment is less than ten per cent. Therefore, the bystander CPR that John received on scene before emergency services arrived was imperative to saving John’s life.


Due to an additional three years of training and a masters-level qualification, paramedics on-board the charity’s aircraft and critical care cars achieve ‘critical care’ status meaning that they can treat patients with advanced drugs and analgesia as well as perform certain lifesaving interventions at the incident scene.


In addition to the electro-cardiogram and oxygen that John was being treated with by land ambulance crews, the critical care paramedic administered glyceryl trinitrate (GTN) spray to expand John’s blood vessels and aspirin to thin John’s blood to increase circulation around his heart, reducing the chances of a secondary cardiac arrest.


Once John’s condition had been stabilised, he was conveyed via land ambulance to New Cross Hospital, Wolverhampton. The charity’s critical care paramedic escorted on-board the land ambulance, in case John’s heart arrested again and his enhanced clinical skills were urgently required on route.


John says: “I went from working part-time and enjoying regular trips to the sports centre playing squash to spending 17 days in hospital following major surgery to my heart.


“I just don’t want to think what could have happened had it not been for Clive, the team at the leisure centre and Midlands Air Ambulance charity’s enhanced care.” 


I just don’t want to think what could have happened had it not been for Clive, the team at the leisure centre and Midlands Air Ambulance charity’s enhanced care.

Thankfully, John is here to tell his story, but it could have been so different.


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