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Heart attack survivor backs campaign to make Wales more DefibAware

Peter during his recovery process.

Peter was just 55 when he suffered a cardiac arrest. A defibrillator saved Peter’s life that day. He is supporting St John Ambulance Cymru’s Defibruary campaign as he recognises the importance of a defibrillator more than most.

Peter Belson, from Caerphilly, was travelling home from his caravan in November 2021, with wife Kelly, when he started to feel unwell. He thought nothing of it, so his wife took over behind the wheel and they continued their journey home. Peter notes at that time, he had absolutely no idea how serious the situation was going to be. It was shortly after that Peter cried out in pain.

The pair pulled over to a nearby petrol station. Kelly describes how Peter was “grey, clammy and breathing oddly”. She noticed a parked police car in the petrol station, and ran over to ask for assistance, assuming correctly that her husband was critically unwell.

The police officer promptly contacted his station’s emergency line, asking for backup. He had quickly dialled 999 and was talking to the dispatcher, sourcing their nearest defibrillator.

Two more officers quickly arrived at the scene, with a defibrillator on board. The group got into their cars, aiming for the hospital. Kelly notes that at this point, Peter was “obviously very unwell. His colour was dreadful, his breathing was very shallow and he was barely conscious.” It was then that Peter went into cardiac arrest.

Two of the officers promptly pulled Peter out of the vehicle and connected him to the defibrillator. The defibrillator shocked him, Kelly describes how the process “felt like ages, but was actually only a few minutes.”

Following the defibrillator’s shock, Pete regained consciousness, Kelly commented “they say your life flashes before your eyes, and it definitely did. Pete’s eyes opened wide and were staring into space”.

Pete was stable enough to be transported into hospital as the ambulance arrived. The medics identified a block in his arteries and he was taken straight to surgery. He suffered multiple cardiac arrests in hospital, which resulted in an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) being fitted.

This means Peter is kept safer if he should have another cardiac arrest,.

Peter describes some time later how he “came to realise how serious it really was” as he came to terms with what he had been through.

Kelly said, “He was very unwell, but very lucky that the police officer had been in the right place at the right time.

The police’s prompt action and early defibrillator use played a huge role in Peter’s survival. Being aware of your nearest defibrillator is so important, as is having the confidence to use one in an emergency situation. Following a cardiac arrest, a person’s survival chances are reduced by 10% for every passing minute without action. The quicker you act, the more chance you have to save a life.

It’s been a long recovery process which is ongoing; Cardiac Rehab, exercise, diet and so on, but I’m getting there,” Peter says, “I’ve been listening to my body and learning to say no.

When asked why he’s supporting the St John Ambulance Cymru Defibruary campaign, “defibrillators save lives” he said, “it saved mine”.