Ben gets a second chance at life
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.