‘I played a game of squash and died twice...’
WHEN Alan Bevan began feeling breathless around Christmas time last year, he put it down to getting older and a bit heavier.
But in the New Year, after a game of squash, he collapsed into his opponent’s arms.
His heart had stopped, and he was technically dead. But luckily for him, his opponent, Nick Barlow, knew just what to do.
Using his CPR training and a handily-placed defibrillator, Mr Barlow brought his friend back to life. Only minutes later, however, Mr Bevan’s heart stopped again, and he died for a second time.
Again, Mr Barlow was able to bring him back before the ambulance crew arrived and took him to the University Hospital of Wales, Cardiff.
Almost one year on from the day he died twice at Rhiwbina Squash Club in Cardiff, 63-year-old Mr Bevan is back on his feet, although he has given up the squash.
“I won that match against Nick, and after we finished, we were coming off the court and we sat down on the bench for a rest and a chat,” he said.
“I was just talking to him, when I collapsed into his arms, although I don’t remember a thing about it.”
The married father-of-three started playing squash aged 15.
He was fit and competitive, playing twice a week for his local club in Rhiwbina.
But he said he had felt the warning signs before that day on January 12, 2018, he just hadn’t recognised them.
“Leading up to that day, I had had some signs,” he said.
“I would get out of breath, especially walking up a hill and when the air was cold, but I just put it down to age.”
But on that Friday evening in January, it all caught up with him and he suffered a cardiac arrest.
In a stroke of luck, Mr Barlow had only just received CPR training through his work, and so knew exactly what to do.
As Mr Barlow shouted out for help, he got straight to work on Mr Bevan.
“There was a lady who was a vet playing on the court next to us, so she came over to help too,” Mr Bevan said.
“It was handy, because at least she had some knowledge of physiology.”
One of the club’s coaches, Bob Perry, had just finished some cleaning when he heard the shouts too.
The squash club had a defibrillator, so Mr Perry grabbed it and ran straight over.
“I got the machine out and put the pads on Alan’s chest. The defibrillator tells you what to do so we just followed the instructions. The second time it delivered a shock Alan came round and he shouted out.”
But only moments later, Mr Bevan’s heart stopped again, and the two men repeated the process.
“The first thing I remember after that was having an angiogram done in the hospital, and through a foggy mist the doctor saying to me ‘Your heart’s not damaged, you’re very lucky’.”
In fact, it is down to the CPR that Mr Bevan arrived at the hospital with a completely undamaged heart.
“When I arrived, the cardiologist said all the work had already been done,” Mr Bevan said.
Alan, who runs a travel agency in Whitchurch, spent several weeks in hospital afterwards.
In February, he underwent a quadruple heart bypass operation to improve the circulation of blood round his heart.
Mr Perry, who had undertaken first aid training as part of his squash coaching course, said: “I’ve dealt with medical issues as a first aider, but nothing like that before.
“The doctor came back later and said to tell us from the emergency crew and hospital staff that we delivered a first class response and saved Alan’s life.
“It wasn’t until I was actually going home that it struck me and I got quite emotional.”
It turned out a charity called Welsh Hearts had not only delivered the CPR training to Mr Barlow, but had also funded the defibrilltor.
Now, Mr Bevan wants to raise awareness of how everyone can, with the right training and knowledge, help save a life.
He may have given up the squash now, saying his wife Carol had put her foot down, but he is taking part in the annual Welsh Hearts Cardiff Santa and Elf Dash on Sunday December 9.
He will be running in aid Welsh Hearts.
“The more defibrillators there are, the more trained people in CPR there are, the better the world will be, the more people will survive on the high street,” he said.
“I will be supporting Welsh Hearts this Christmas as they do an amazing job every day by offering free CPR training, placing defibrillators in communities and schools and holding many heart screening sessions.”
There are more than 8,000 outof-hospital cardiac arrests every year in Wales and a cardiac arrest can prove fatal in minutes without timely intervention.
If a defibrillator is used and effective CPR is performed within 3-5 minutes of a cardiac arrest, survival chances increase from 3% to 50%. That is a significant difference and more must be done to increase survival rates.
Welsh Hearts works in partnership with the Welsh Ambulance Service to increase access to defibrillators and also to offer free CPR training to communities all over Wales.
Now in its fifth year, the charity has placed more than 1,400 defibrillators and trained more than 46,000 people in CPR. of
Alan Bevan is running the Santa Dash for Welsh Hearts to raise awareness of the charity following two heart attacks