Alive! The husband whose heart stopped for 68 minutes
Wife told medics to fight on
AFTER Chris Hickey collapsed and lay medically dead for almost an hour, a doctor told his wife Sue he couldn’t be saved.
The company director had suffered a cardiac arrest and, despite attempts by his wife and members of the emergency services to resuscitate him for 55 minutes, he remained unresponsive.
But she begged for the doctor to try just a little longer, and ten minutes later her husband’s heart began to beat again.
Mr Hickey was placed in an induced coma at hospital and when he was brought round was virtually unscathed despite his heart having been stopped officially for 68 minutes.
The father of one said: ‘ The fire service worked on me, followed by paramedics and a doctor from the air ambulance and they used a defibrillator to give me 12 shocks. Normally they stop after three.
‘But all of it would have been for nothing if my wife hadn’t started straight away. Sue was untrained but those three to four minutes [after being talked through the process by a 999 operator] were vital.’
Mr Hickey, 63, was asleep in bed at his home in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, on June 16 when his wife heard him gasping for breath. She rushed in and began performing chest compressions and artificial ventilation after calling 999.
A fire crew arrived and took over for ten minutes before paramedics turned up and worked on Mr Hickey for another 20 minutes. They were followed by an air ambulance with a doctor who tried to save him for another 20 minutes before stopping.
Mrs Hickey’s pleas to continue led to another ten minutes of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) before a heartbeat was finally detected in her husband
‘Why I survived so well is a mystery’
of 38 years. Weak and in a critical condition, Mr Hickey was flown to Bristol Royal Infirmary where doctors placed him in a coma for three days to try to help him recover.
His wife, 62, was warned he might still die and was told to ask close family members to assemble at the hospital to say goodbye. But when her husband was allowed to slowly regain consciousness it became clear there were no lasting effects, other than losing all memory of the three days before the drama.
Tests showed he had nearly succumbed to Sudden Arrhythmic Death Syndrome which affects around 30,000 people each year in the UK. Only 8 per cent survive.
The collapse of Bolton footballer Fabrice Muamba during an FA Cup match in 2012 has been attributed to the condition. He survived despite his heart stopping for 78 minutes.
Often the cause is unknown, and doctors were unable to establish what triggered the disturbance to Mr Hickey’s heart rhythm. ‘I’ve had every test known to man. They don’t know why my heart stopped,’ he said. ‘And why I survived so well is just a mystery. My heart completely stopped for 68 minutes – that’s what it says on my discharge summary.’
Mr Hickey, who is back working full- time at his human resources company, is calling for more members of the public to be made aware of the importance of administering CPR as quickly as possible in life or death situations.
He said: ‘If people are prepared to intervene more quickly it can save lives. It’s not about training – you can’t kill someone from giving them CPR. It’s about making them aware they can ring 999 and be talked through it.’
A tiny defibrillator has been fitted in his chest in case his heart stops again. But doctors have given him the all-clear to do as much exercise as he wants.
His wife, with whom he has a 26-year-old daughter, is still dealing with the shock of watching him nearly die. Yet if she hadn’t been there to take the instructions about CPR, things would have been quite different. ‘I had every confidence with the guy on the phone,’ she said. ‘There’s no magic to it – you just have to do it. The important thing is that it starts straight away.’
Recovered: Chris Hickey has returned to full-time work