Ben gets a sec­ond chance at life

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - RACING -

BEN Ash­ton came very close to never cel­e­brat­ing Fa­ther’s Day for the first time as a dad him­self when he had a mas­sive heart at­tack in the liv­ing room of his home the night be­fore.

Wife Lau­ren had re­cently learned CPR after the birth of their first baby, Luca, and im­me­di­ately be­gan work­ing on him.

Mr Ash­ton, 36, who was born with con­gen­i­tal heart dis­ease, had no idea he only had a one in 10 chance of sur­viv­ing, but his wife kept him alive that day last year un­til the am­bu­lance ar­rived at their Goul­burn house. “We had friends over, and we were watch­ing a movie when it hap­pened, but I did my CPR course for my son, so we are so lucky I had done it re­cently,” Mrs As­ton said.

“He spent his first Fa­ther’s Day, which was also his birthday, in Can­berra Hospi­tal.”

“I was pretty dis­ap­pointed to spend Fa­ther’s Day in hospi­tal, but I didn’t re­alise how se­ri­ous it was,” Mr Ash­ton said.

Al­though he sur­vived, Mr Ash­ton’s heart de­te­ri­o­rated badly and he was trans­ferred to Prince of Wales for surgery, so he also missed Luca’s first birthday. A new de­fib­ril­la­tor was fit­ted but it did not work.

“He ended up on life sup­port and they said he needed a heart trans­plant,” Mrs Ash­ton said.

Mr Ash­ton was told that, with­out a heart trans­plant, he only had a year to live.

Three times he got the life­sav­ing call and was pre­pared and ready for surgery when the match fell through.

“Twice he was even in the anaes­thet­ics bay wait­ing for the surgery but, when it’s not right, they call it off,” Mrs Ash­ton said.

Head of the trans­plant unit at St Vin­cent’s Hospi­tal Dr Paul Jansz said Ben was “triple-starred” on the waitlist.

“We some­times have to pri­ori­tise those in dan­ger of im­mi­nent death and Ben was one of those,” Dr Jansz said.

“It was get­ting pretty scary those last cou­ple of months,” Mr Ash­ton said.

“I was start­ing to feel pretty or­di­nary and was think­ing one would not come through, I thought maybe we won’t get that call but I kept look­ing at the pho­tos of my fam­ily and my son and I kept be­liev­ing be­cause it was all for him in the end.”

Then a donor heart that was a per­fect match was found and the cou­ple had to get to Syd­ney’s St Vin­cent’s Hospi­tal im­me­di­ately.

He went into surgery in the early hours of the morn­ing.

Mr Ash­ton, who is still in hospi­tal re­cov­er­ing, said he was grate­ful for the gift of life.

I’m very grate­ful,” he said. “I know donors and donor fam­i­lies don’t usu­ally have con­tact but I feel I will reach out to make con­tact at some point.”

And, al­though he will spend another Fa­ther’s Day, and birthday, in hospi­tal, the dream to do nor­mal dad things with his boy is very close.

“Once I’m home we’ll have a play in the park.

“I’m look­ing for­ward to tak­ing him to the beach in sum­mer,” he said.

Ben Ash­ton with wife Lau­ren and son Luca, 2, at St Vin­cent’s Hospi­tal. Pic­ture: Tim Hunter

Ben Ash­ton cra­dles new­born Luca.

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