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Belfast hospital padre saved by medics in own football team after heart attack on pitch

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Dr Paul Hamilton, Rev Derek Johnston and radiographer Philip Frizzell at the Royal Victoria Hospital

Dr Paul Hamilton, Rev Derek Johnston and radiographer Philip Frizzell at the Royal Victoria Hospital

Dr Paul Hamilton, Rev Derek Johnston and radiographer Philip Frizzell at the Royal Victoria Hospital

A hospital chaplain who suffered a cardiac arrest while playing football was saved by two team-mates who gave him CPR before an ambulance arrived.

The Rev Derek Johnston, lead chaplain for the Belfast Trust, was playing a game on August 9 when he collapsed.

Doctor Paul Hamilton and radiographer Philip Frizzell, who both work for the trust, worked on the 53-year-old after he stopped breathing.

An ambulance was called and paramedics used a defibrillator twice on Rev Johnston before they took him to the Royal Victoria Hospital.

Around an hour later Rev Johnston had a stent fitted - a small metal or plastic tube put in to a vessel to maintain blood flow - in one of the wards he works as a chaplain.

He was then moved to the Ulster Hospital in Dundonald the next day.

Rev Johnston said: "I was playing football, as I do every Thursday, with the team from the Belfast Trust.

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"One minute I was playing and a split second later I was on the ground.

"I think at first the guys thought I was joking but they quickly realised I had stopped breathing.

"I owe my life to them because Paul and Phil started CPR quickly and kept my heart pumping until the ambulance arrived and the paramedics defibrillated me.

"Parts of that evening are still a bit vague but numerous medical and nursing people have told me I'm very blessed to be alive."

A consultant told him he was one of only a few people to survive this type of incident without major brain damage.

He added: "Those first three minutes after my cardiac arrest were critical in saving my life. The swift actions of my colleagues in starting CPR saved my life and minimised damage.

"Literally, the right people, with the right knowledge, in the right place at the right time.

"I am very thankful to them and to God.

"It was strange being a patient in the hospital where I am chaplain. Lots of staff had to do a double take when they saw me in bed, but I am very grateful for their care."

Rev Johnston is back at work on a part-time basis and has taken part in British Heart Foundation Northern Ireland (BHF NI) Heart Start lifesaving skills training course.

He said: "I now appreciate how important it is to know CPR and be able to act fast.

"I did the course with my wife Linda, so that if the worst happens to someone else we can do our best to help save their life."

He added: "If my cardiac arrest had happened elsewhere I probably wouldn't have survived."

There are more than 1,400 cardiac arrests in Northern Ireland each year and less than one in 10 people survives.

But a person's chance of survival doubles if someone administers CPR immediately.

And for every minute a person suffering a cardiac arrest does not get CPR, their chance of surviving drops by around 10%.

Craig Moore from BHF NI said: "Paul and Phil's brave actions saved Rev Johnston's life. It's truly inspiring to hear such positive stories.

"BHF NI wants to create a nation of lifesavers where everyone has the ability and confidence and perform CPR when you need to.

"When someone has a cardiac arrest it most likely won't be a stranger in the street it will be your mum, dad, friend or colleague, and standing by while the minutes tick by not knowing what to do is devastating.

"We need everyone in Northern Ireland to learn this lifesaving skill to give them the confidence to step in and give CPR when someone collapses after a cardiac arrest.

"It could mean the difference between life and death."

For more details or to find out how you can teach CPR in your school, workplace or community group visit bhf.org.uk/cpr.


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