A Leeds pupil has spoken of how his life was saved by quick-thinking first-aiders at school on the day the region’s ambulance service set out to teach a generation of students how to perform CPR.
Gerson Costa, 18, was playing football on the pitch at Leeds West Academy in Bramley on October 19 last year when he suddenly collapsed and went into cardiac arrest.
First on the scene was student receptionist Sarah Stead, who immediately used the school’s defibrillator and performed CPR before colleagues and, later, paramedics arrived to take over.
Gerson spent the next few days in a coma at Leeds General Infirmary and was diagnosed with a heart condition which led to medics fitting an internal defibrillator.
After originally fearing he would never play football again, Gerson is now back on the pitch and yesterday – almost a year ago to the day since it happened – he spoke about the harrowing experience as his schoolmates joined hundreds of pupils around the region to learn CPR for Yorkshire Ambulance Service’s (YAS) ‘Restart a Heart’ day, supported by the British Heart Foundation.
Gerson, who is originally from Portugal, said he thinks about, and thanks, Sarah every morning. He said: “It was a disease I was born with that I didn’t know about. This was going to happen in the future so I’m just glad it happened with this support around me.”
First-aider Sarah Stead said instinct kicked in that day and it was only afterwards that the enormity of what she had done had dawned on her.
“You train for it and practise it year after year but I never thought I would be using it on a student, and not someone as fit and healthy as Gerson.”
Last year, the Yorkshire Ambulance Service saved more cardiac arrest patients than ever before – 310 compared to 240 in 2015-16.
Although the region’s survival rates have increased over the last two years, with 10.1 per cent surviving in 2016-17, statistics across the UK remain low compared to Norway, where 25 per cent survive – and where children learn CPR in schools.
About 900 volunteers visited 131 schools in Yorkshire for Restart a Heart day to learn the life-saving skills which can double a patient’s chance of survival.
A family from Sheffield are among those backing the campaign after 52-year-old Nigel Colton was resuscitated by his 15-year-old son Herbie. Herbie said: “I didn’t really think about it, adrenaline kicked in and I just did it.”
Jason Carlyon, clinical development manager for YAS, said: “CPR is undoubtedly the most important step in the chain of survival. If this can be carried out in the critical few minutes before the arrival of an ambulance, it can mean the difference between life and death.”
Simon Gillespie, chief executive at the British Heart Foundation, said: “CPR is the difference between life and death for thousands of people every year in the UK who suffer a cardiac arrest. Every second counts, and it simply isn’t enough to hope that someone who knows CPR is present.
“We need everyone to learn this lifesaving skill to give them the confidence to step in and give CPR when someone collapses after a cardiac arrest.”
More than 25,000 youngsters learned the vital lesson on Restart a Heart Day in a bid by Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust to further improve survival rates from out-of-hospital cardiac arrests.