Leeds student, 18, pays tribute to first aider who saved his life

LIFE SAVED: Gerson Costa, 18, with Sarah Stead, a first aider at Leeds West Academy who used CPR when Gerson collapsed playing football. PIC: James Hardisty
LIFE SAVED: Gerson Costa, 18, with Sarah Stead, a first aider at Leeds West Academy who used CPR when Gerson collapsed playing football. PIC: James Hardisty
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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 who used the school’s on-site 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 but came to the school’s Football Academy, said he thinks about, and thanks, Sarah every day.

He said: “I was new to the school, I came for the football, so I didn’t know Sarah myself. Now every day in the morning I thank her.

“This 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 just kicked in that day and it was only afterwards that she realised the enormity of what she had done.

She said: “A student had come running in to say someone was struggling to breathe. I thought it was an asthma attack or something. I went running down and say him lying on the floor and could see that he wasn’t breathing. So I asked that student to run and fetch the defibrillator. I just went into autopilot.”

She said afterwards she realised she was shaking. “It was then that it hit me. I think I went into a bit of shock.”

Sarah added: “You train for it and practise it year after year but I never thought I’d be using it on a student, and not someone as fit and healthy as Gerson.”