A man from Nicaragua who suffered a cardiac arrest while on holiday in Lewis has described his survival as little short of “miraculous” – paying tribute to quick-thinking responders and a charity scheme to place defibrillators in rural areas.
Originally from Dundee, David Thomson (66) was visiting Lewis in June with his youngest daughter Eva on a four-day cycling trip when it happened.
“Cycling a little behind my daughter, my massive cardiac arrest felled me on the spot,” said David.
Describing the events of 15th June through his daughter’s first-hand account of the traumatic episode, David said: “She immediately began to flag down the nearest passing car to request assistance and – whether from the first or second of these is unclear – two doctors honeymooning on the Hebridean trail appeared and started CPR.
“Somewhere along the way two more doctors appeared and for fifteen to twenty minutes the four of them kept the blood pumping through my system until a local first responder appeared with a defibrillator placed in the community for just such an eventuality by the organisation Lucky2Bhere.
That first responder was 33-year-old local fisherman Joe Langston, who, speaking to the Free Press earlier this week, modestly recounted his key intervention on that day.
He said: “I was walking down the road from my friend’s house, which is only two minutes from where the incident was.
“I heard crying, but I couldn’t see anything, there were just two bikes on the road. Then a bit further down the road, I saw Eva and she was laying over her dad, crying and screaming ‘help’.
“We pulled his head back and stripped his jacket down, but you could tell that he was having a heart attack. The first thing that came into my head was ‘run to the mill for the defibrillator’ – as it’s right up the road.
“I legged it up there up for the defibrillator, while I was talking to a lady on 999. By the time I got back with the defibrillator, two doctors, who I think were on their honeymoon, had got there by that point, so they took over and used the defibrillator.
“And then another two doctors came on the scene afterwards.”
Local first responder, Calum MacArthur also quickly attended the scene after he was alerted by a man who spotted the incident from his window. Mr MacArthur brought oxygen with him and was able to administer his skills to aid Mr Thomson. Meanwhile, another local man focused his attention on caring for Eva while her dad received treatment.
Detailing what happened next, Mr Langston added: “They (the doctors) connected the defibrillator to him, it shocked him once, and then they did CPR – the defibrillator explained everything you had to do.
“He came to after a couple of minutes – but he had no colour and was definitely in a bad way. All his daughter could say was ‘help’, it wasn’t nice for her to see her father like that.”
Mr Thomson was then taken by ambulance to the Western Isles Hospital in Stornoway before being transferred to Glasgow where he underwent two stent procedures before being discharged five days later following a period of observation and recovery.
Now back home in Nicaragua, where he moved to build houses and schools as a volunteer in 1984, the Dundee-born survivor reflected on his close call.
He said: “I suppose my case could be looked upon as little short of miraculous, all things considered, though even miracles welcome a helping hand where possible.”
“The immediate appearance of four doctors on the scene ensured that my twenty minutes ‘downtime’ didn’t translate into severe brain damage or further deterioration of the heart, but even they would have had to give up eventually if the defibrillator hadn’t appeared.
“Therein lies the very positive result of human intervention in which an accessible life-saving device and the necessary basic training were on hand and were equally responsible for saving my life.”
He added: “I have managed to trace several people from the local community directly or indirectly involved in my resuscitation and the immediate support for my daughter, as well as Lucky2BHere – the organisation responsible for placing the defibrillator and training the first responders.
Joe Langston added: “I actually spoke to David through messenger in the middle of the night (On Monday)
“He was messaging back and forward and said he had made a really good recovery. He wanted to thank me in person – but there is no need for him to do that!
“For days I was trying to out what happened. I wanted to know if he made it -so it was good to know he had made a recovery with just a couple of broken ribs – which is a good outcome.”
Lucky2BHere is charity based in Skye which places defibrillators and delivers emergency life support training to communities throughout Scotland. For more information visit the Lucky2BHere website.
Article by Adam Gordon.