Former international basketball player and captain of the Sheffield Sharks team, John Wilson (56) was nearing the end of the 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.
John had gone into cardiac arrest and was given CPR by a consultant anaesthetist who was also taking part in the bike ride. An ambulance arrived shortly after and he was defibrillated. When his heart beat was regulated he was flown by Derbyshire Leicestershire and Rutland Air Ambulance (DLRAA) to the Northern General Hospital in Sheffield for urgent medical treatment.
“I am unbelievably thankful to everyone who helped me and the fact I am still alive is down to the air ambulance and the other people,” he says.
After being an athlete and fitness fanatic all his life, John – who works as a mechanical engineer – has had to adjust to a different lifestyle after his collapse.
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 “zap” him back to life should there be a problem.
“I have been competitive all my life and to suddenly be told that I cannot do things like I did before is physiologically hard to deal with. It’s been quite difficult to adapt to not having a competition to focus on but I still have many many great things to look forward to in life,” says John.
Since his accident he and his wife Gillian have been cycling regularly, including taking part in the Eroica Britannia bike ride in 2017 and 2018.
“When you nearly lose your life like 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 air base 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 the air ambulance played in saving my life, I hope people will be encouraged to support them,” adds John.