A heartbeat from death - saved by defibrillator

LAUREN HAYES
Last updated 05:00 11/07/2014
brian hall
NICOLE JOHNSTONE/ Fairfax NZ
SECOND CHANCE: Invercargill man Brian Hall, 80, is looking forward to playing table tennis again after surviving a cardiac arrest.

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Brian Hall can't remember much about the day he died.

The Invercargill man was playing table tennis when he had a cardiac arrest, and his heart stopped for 15 minutes. At least, that's what friends and family have told him in the weeks since he came back to life.

"I just dropped on the floor, unconscious. Just like that. I had no prior warning or anything," Hall said.

"You just never know, do you? Life is a very thin thread."

Hall had no history of heart trouble, and the cardiac arrest could have been his first and last warning there was anything wrong.

It was a defibrillator, donated to the table tennis stadium by the ILT Foundation, and the quick thinking of a fellow player that gave him a second go.

By chance, Cliff Munro, a retired doctor, was also trying his hand at table tennis that Friday. He performed CPR for quarter of an hour until an ambulance arrived, Hall said.

"They did CPR - fairly violently, I presume, because for the first few weeks I was afraid to sneeze or sniff."

It took Munro and ambulance staff eight tries with the defibrillator to get Hall's heart pumping again.

Hall's wife, Margaret, was on a bus bound for Christchurch at the time.

The bus was stopped at Balclutha when she received the news - her husband was in Southland Hospital on life support. Doctors warned her Brian might have brain damage, warned her the life support might have to be turned off.

She waited anxiously until Hall woke up, confused but not brain damaged, and watched as he was transferred to Dunedin Hospital, where he had a stent inserted, he said.

Now, six weeks later, the 80-year-old is feeling "just about 100 per cent", and is looking forward to getting back to ordinary life - including table tennis.

He has bought a new bat, and hopes to return to the game next week.

However, he has not forgotten how close he came to playing his last match, that Friday at the table tennis stadium.

"I was reading that 1500 people have cardiac arrests outside hospitals, and only 150 survive. I was one of the lucky ones."

ILT Foundation chairman Alan Dennis said the foundation had contributed 70 defibrillators to the community, and had trained 700 people how to use them.

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- The Southland Times

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