Dad-of-two who had a cardiac arrest while out running pays tribute to his life-savers

A dad-of-two who was brought back from the brink of death after suffering a cardiac arrest while out running has paid tribute to the "outstanding" medics who helped save his life along with a hero passerby.

Monday, 25th May 2020, 6:00 am

Stephen Reynolds, 38, was training for a half-marathon when he collapsed one morning last July, an hour into his regular run.

Luckily a passer-by - who had just trained in CPR - saw what happened and immediately began resuscitating him while an ambulance was called.

Paramedics had to shock Stephen's heart several times with a defibrillator to get it beating again and an air ambulance took him to the congenital heart unit at Leeds General Infirmary.

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Stephen Reynolds, 38, with wife Abigail and sons Henry, six, and Arthur, four. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe

There, doctors diagnosed Stephen with a rare heart defect which he had been living with since he was born - a ticking time bomb he never knew he had - where his right coronary artery was in the wrong place.

After high-risk open heart surgery and a three-week hospital stay, he is now fully recovered and - incredibly - back training for a post-lockdown half-marathon when he plans to raise money for the Children's Heart Surgery Fund, which supports the life-saving LGI heart unit.

Speaking from his home in Knaresborough, where he lives with wife Abigail and sons Henry, six, and Arthur, four, he said his brush with death has changed his outlook on life.

"I'm very lucky. I think generally it's a ten per cent survival rate if someone has a cardiac arrest [out of hospital]. I think this decreases every minute that CPR is not delivered.

Stephen Reynolds, 38, who survived after having a cardiac arrest while out running in Knaresborough. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe

"Every day, the thought of what happened to me on that day goes though my mind at some point."

Stephen, who is originally from Wrenthorpe, Wakefield, has since met the passer-by who carried out the critical CPR in those first few minutes, to thank him in person.

"I was off work for a while afterwards at home and he and his wife came around to meet me. He's retired and was on his way to play golf that morning. It gave him quite a shock.

"I'm really grateful to him. He saved my life. I'm grateful to the paramedics for how quicky they got there. I'm really thankful for how amazing the NHS staff were - the doctors, the nurses and support staff that looked after me in those three weeks.

The Yorkshire Evening Post launched a Have a Heart campaign to help raise money this year for the Children's Heart Surgery Fund.

"It's just amazing what they have been able to do and how quickly they managed to diagnose the problem. It felt a lot of time at the time, but three weeks from almost dying to having surgery and being back home wasn't really that long in the great scheme of things."

Stephen has since learned CPR himself and continues to raise awareness of the importance of learning the life-saving skill among his friends and family.

"I just want to make sure if I'm ever in the same situation I can return the favour," he said.

Stephen has also pledged to do what he can to support the Children's Heart Surgery Fund and recently donated his normal commuting costs - covering travel to his office in Berkshire - to the charity while in lockdown.

He said: "The specialist care provided by the congenital heart unit at LGI has been outstanding and I’m glad I’m able to support the CHSF and all the vital work they do helping current patients and their families as well as the research they fund. This event has given me a fresh outlook on life and I’m keen to be able to give something back to the people that looked after me."

Earlier this year, the Yorkshire Evening Post launched the Have a Heart campaign, to try and help CHSF reach its goal of £1m in donations this year.

Since the coronavirus pandemic hit, the charity has been forced to issue an urgent plea for donations after losing a "significant portion" of its yearly income - thought to be around £300,000 over the three months.

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