‘I’m no hero’ says Leeds great-grandad who saved wife’s life

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Great-grandfather Brian Whitaker has seen many rollercoaster emotional moments in his 76 years.

But watching his beloved wife of 57 years collapse from a heart attack in front of his eyes, and then bringing her back from the brink of death, beats them all.



Lifesaving hero Brian was forced to perform emergency CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) on wife Ann, 75, after her heart stopped suddenly.

Ambulance bosses have today praised his calmness in the face of huge personal distress.

Less than one in 10 cardiac arrest patients survive - but the chances of saving them double if CPR is started before the ambulance arrives.

The couple were enjoying a quiet Sunday afternoon at home when the frightening events unfolded.

12/2/15   A kiss from  Brian for his wife Ann Whittaker  from Beeston, Leeds . (GL100499a)

12/2/15 A kiss from Brian for his wife Ann Whittaker from Beeston, Leeds . (GL100499a)

Speaking to the YEP from his living room in Beeston, Mr Whitaker recalled: “It was terrifying. It happened right here. I just heard a big gasp and I said ‘Ann, are you alright?’

“I could see she wasn’t breathing. She had no colour whatsoever. I knew there was something very seriously wrong.”

He dialled 999 and was put through to an operator.

“I was still in panic mode speaking to her,” he explained.

12/2/15        Ann and Brian  Whittaker  from Beeston, Leeds, with some of their Great Grandchildren . L to R... Libby 6, Lily Rose 2,Poppy 5, Kai 11 months and Keira 11 (GL100499e).

12/2/15 Ann and Brian Whittaker from Beeston, Leeds, with some of their Great Grandchildren . L to R... Libby 6, Lily Rose 2,Poppy 5, Kai 11 months and Keira 11 (GL100499e).

“I was so frightened. The operator said ‘you need to listen to what I’m telling you’.

“Then she told me exactly what to do, where to place my hands on top of the other.

“She kept counting ‘1,2,3,4’ and told me to keep the rhythm up, and not to stop until the medical people arrived.”

Mr Whitaker said the moments that followed “seemed like forever”, but a paramedic actually arrived within three or four minutes.

“He got the oxygen mask out and said ‘I’ll take over now’. I still wasn’t sure.

“I thought I had lost her. But he told me ‘you’ve got her breathing’.

“All they knew was her heart had stopped. She had definitely gone for a few minutes.”

Mrs Whitaker was transferred to Leeds General Infirmary to intensive care, and had a defibrillator fitted to monitor her heart. She is now back at home recovering.

Her husband has won praise for his level-headedness and quick actions which saved his wife’s life.

But he is very keen to thank the “absolutely brilliant” 999 operator - as well as staff at Leeds General Infirmary.

“Fortunately with the help of that lady I did what I needed to do,” Mr Whitaker said.

“They have been praising me, but I don’t feel like a hero. To me, that lady was the real hero.”

Mr Whitaker, a retired driver and former RAF man, met the love of his life at Mecca Dancehall when they were both just 16.

The couple have a massive family, with 23 great grandchildren and 19 grandchildren.

Mr Whitaker said his wife is the “backbone” of his family, and life without her would be unthinkable.

The pair had been due to fly to Benidorm to celebrate Mr Whitaker’s 76th birthday, which was yesterday, as well as Valentine’s Day, when Mrs Whitaker collapsed.

“But having Ann here with me is the best present I could ever ask for,” he said.

“Seeing her sitting up in her hospital bed, that was the happiest sight of my life ever.”

Dr Julian Mark, Executive Medical Director at Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust, said: “We are delighted to hear about Ann’s recovery from the cardiac arrest she suffered and would like to commend the actions of her husband Brian.

“He stayed calm in what must have been a distressing situation and carefully followed our call handler’s instructions on how to perform CPR.

“Staff in our emergency operations centre do a fantastic job every day taking emergency calls, providing vital instructions and reassuring callers and patients so that immediate care can be provided until the ambulance crew arrives.

“The happy ending to this particular story underlines the importance of members of the public learning life-saving skills and we are committed to doing everything we can to support this and help improve people’s chances of survival.”


>Over 30,000 people suffer cardiac arrests outside of hospital in the UK every year.

>Eighty per cent of incidents happen in the home, often in front of loved ones.

>Less than one in 10 people survive cardiac arrest, partly because people don’t have the skills or confidence to perform CPR prior to the arrival of an ambulance.

>If CPR starts immediately before the arrival of the ambulance, the patient’s chances of survival double.

Source: Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust