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Two RNLI lifeguards among others thanked by cardiac arrest survivor

Lifeguards News Release

A driver who suffered a cardiac arrest while delivering parcels has thanked the team of people who saved his life which included two Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) lifeguards from Cornwall.

Cornwall Air Ambulance

Front left patient Chris Barendt, front right, Colin Grant, Deputy Sister on CCU at Royal Cornwall Hospital, Jo Creedy, RNLI Lifeguards (l-r) Graham Fisher and Tom McRitchie, Cornwall Air Ambulance Pilot Richard Dixon and Cornwall Air Ambulance Critical Care Paramedic Thomas Hennessy Jones.

Chris Barendt,63, was on his Amazon delivery route near Portreath when he collapsed at the wheel on 30 March 2021.

The van came to a sudden halt on the road, prompting drivers in nearby vehicles- including RNLI lifeguards Tom McRitchie and Graham Fisher to pull over to help. Unable to open the van door, they smashed the window and pulled Chris on to the road to commence CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) along with passer-by Colin Grant, while they awaited the emergency services.

Chris said,

'Everyone says it’s a miracle. Those on scene that day all thought I was dead- I technically was for 27 minutes. It is testament to the actions of the lifeguards, the passers-by, ambulance crew and air ambulance that I am here today. What can I say- thanks just isn’t enough!'

Responders from South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SWASFT) arrived on scene, including a volunteer Community First Responder. They shocked Chris seven times with the defibrillator before he regained a pulse.

Cornwall Air Ambulance was tasked to the incident, landing in a nearby field in just 12 minutes. The charity’s paramedics sedated Chris and put him on a ventilator to transfer him to Royal Cornwall Hospital.

Thomas Hennessy Jones, Critical Care Paramedic for Cornwall Air Ambulance, said,

‘Fewer than 1 in 10 people survive an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest. For Chris to not only survive, but to be back to full health is remarkable. I don’t meet many patients that have had such a successful story.

The key to success is the chain of survival: early intervention, early CPR, early defibrillation, and post-resuscitation care. It’s a team effort, only when all the links come together does it work for that person.’

Just 48 hours later, doctors at the hospital were amazed when Chris was sat up in bed talking. He spent two weeks in hospital before returning to his home in Penryn.

Chris and his family are backing Restart a Heart Day which encourages as many people as possible learn lifesaving CPR and defibrillation skills, so that more lives like his have the potential to be saved in the future.

Chris added,

‘For people to survive in these situations, it’s really important that everyone knows how to do this. The actions that happened in the first five minutes and beyond made all the difference, it gave someone like me a chance.”

Notes to editors

· Survival rates from out of hospital cardiac arrest remain stubbornly low in the UK, with fewer than one in ten people surviving.

· There are more than 30,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests in the UK every year, and every minute without CPR and defibrillation reduces the chance of survival by up to 10%

· When someone has a cardiac arrest, performing immediate CPR can help double their chance of survival in some cases

· The chance of surviving a cardiac arrest is tripled when an AED is available via a public-access defibrillation programme

(Source Resuscitation Council UK)

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For more information please contact Claire Fitzpatrick-Smith, Media Engagement Placement (south west) on [email protected] or 07902 975993, or Amy Caldwell, Regional Media Manager on 07920 818807 or [email protected]. Alternatively, please contact the RNLI Press Office on 01202 336789 or [email protected].

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Cornwall Air Ambulance

RNLI lifeguards Tom McRitchie (L) and Graham Fisher (R)

Key facts about the RNLI

The RNLI charity saves lives at sea. Its volunteers provide a 24-hour search and rescue service around the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland coasts. The RNLI operates 238 lifeboat stations in the UK and Ireland and more than 240 lifeguard units on beaches around the UK and Channel Islands. The RNLI is independent of Coastguard and government and depends on voluntary donations and legacies to maintain its rescue service. Since the RNLI was founded in 1824, its lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved over 142,700 lives.

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