Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland woman thanks staff who kept her alive after heart attack in aerobics class

Joanna Ireland and husband David
Joanna Ireland and husband David

By Claire Williamson

A Newtownabbey woman who suffered a cardiac arrest at a fitness class has been reunited with the leisure centre staff who saved her life.

Joanna Ireland from Glengormley visited Sixmile Leisure Centre in Ballyclare yesterday - two months after she collapsed during an aerobics class.

The 57-year-old suffered a cardiac arrest during the fitness session and centre staff took quick action by performing CPR and defibrillation before the ambulance arrived.

The swift action of five staff members saved her life and Joanna thanked the team of Alex Deaney, Tim Ayre, Lee Irvine, Isaiah Close and Janelle Close as they were reunited.

Mum-of-three Joanna said she had exercised regularly for years and attended the class twice a week.

She said: "Tuesday, February 20, was just an ordinary day.

"I felt fine at the start of the class and one of the other ladies told me I wasn't following the routine properly after she saw me stumble a few times, but I had no idea what was ahead of me.

"One minute I was taking part and the next I remember was two days later in hospital. I had suffered a cardiac arrest and my heart had stopped. After I collapsed the centre staff took quick action and, realising I was essentially dead on their floor, they started CPR and defibrillation while also evacuating the centre. They managed to phone my husband David who rushed there to see them working on me on the floor which must have been absolutely terrifying.

"They kept my heart beating until the ambulance arrived and took me to hospital. I was later diagnosed with apical hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a genetic heart condition I didn't know I had."

Joanna said without the bravery and professionalism of the centre staff she would not be here today.

"I don't think there are really words to say how grateful I am to Alex, Tim, Lee, Isaiah and Janelle. They saved my life, there's no doubt about it. You never think a cardiac arrest is going to happen to you but it did and they gave me a second chance at life.

"If my story encourages even one person to get out there and learn these skills it will be worth it."

Joanna and her husband David have made a donation to the British Heart Foundation Northern Ireland (BHF NI) to recognise their lifesaving work in equipping the public with the skills to perform CPR and defibrillation.

There are over 1,400 cardiac arrests every year in Northern Ireland, and less than one in 10 survive. If CPR is administered immediately before the arrival of the ambulance, the patient's chances of survival can double.

Every minute without CPR or defibrillation can reduce a person's chance of surviving a cardiac arrest by around ten per cent.

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