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Cyclist who “died and survived” recalls vital role of air ambulance in saving his life

Cyclist who “died and survived” recalls vital role of air ambulance in saving his life

Four years ago today (19th June) John Wilson was a patient flown by Derbyshire, Leicestershire & Rutland Air Ambulance (DLRAA) after he suffered a cardiac arrest during a bike ride in the Peak District.

A mechanical engineer by profession, he is currently part of a team of people designing and making personal protective equipment and reconfiguring wards at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital, Sheffield during the Covid-19 crisis.

“I don’t have the words to say how grateful I am to everyone who helped me on that day. Without them, I might not still be alive.”

“My life is so fantastic I cannot contemplate having missed the last four years of it. It’s just unthinkable and too upsetting,” he says.

Former international basketball player and captain of the Sheffield Sharks team, John (58) was nearing the end of the 2016 Eroica Britannia bike ride – just outside Bakewell – when he collapsed.

“I stopped at the bottom of a hill to wait for my wife, who was riding behind me when I passed out. Basically I died but due to the speedy actions of medics and the local air ambulance I survived,” he says.

It is believed John had gone into a cardiac arrhythmia which in turn caused him to have a cardiac arrest. Fortunately, John was given immediate CPR by a consultant anaesthetist who was also taking part in the bike ride. When an ambulance arrived shortly after with a defibrillator, John was treated and his heart “restarted”.

The DLRAA aircraft landed close by and the critical care team on board began to treat John to ensure he could be flown safely by helicopter to the Northern General Hospital in Sheffield – the nearest specialist cardiac centre in the area.

The flight time was just eight minutes from the scene to the hospital landing pad, a similar road transfer being bumpy and more than 30 minutes. The air transfer with the DLRAA crew meant John received the lifesaving hospital interventions he desperately needed far quicker.

During his two week recovery period in hospital, he was fitted with a Subcutaneous Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator under his armpit to detect if his heart starts beating irregularly. This would give him a controlled electric shock to “reset his heart” back to life should there be a problem.

Thankfully, the device has never been activated and John cycles regularly. He describes himself as “very fit” and says his life is “pretty good health-wise”.

He has been a fitness fanatic all his life and is very grateful that he has been able to get back into good shape.

Since his accident, he and his wife Gillian have been cycling regularly, including taking part in the Eroica Britannia bike ride again in 2017 and 2018.

“When you nearly lose your life as I did you see the world with a different pair of goggles on. You see the things that really matter to you and you focus on them.”

“It was emotional for us both to go back and take part in the ride, which started out as a social event and ended as a nightmare for the whole family, but it is something I felt I want to do. It has helped me to close a door and move forward,” says John.

He says he “cannot praise the air ambulance crew who came to my rescue enough” and has been to the airbase at East Midlands Airport to say thank you in person to them.

“Many people don’t realise the local air ambulance is a charity which receives no government funding. By sharing my story about the part DLRAA played in saving my life, I hope people will be encouraged to support them, especially in the difficult times we are now in when so many fundraising events have had to be cancelled,” adds John.

The lifesaving charity reaches its 40,000 missions milestone Wednesday 24th June and needs public support to keep them flying, read more here