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If you had a heart attack, could your friends save you?

posted 13 Jan 2014, 08:17 by Unknown user   [ updated 13 Jan 2014, 08:17 ]

Would you be safe in the hands of your friends, if you suffered a heart attack? Would YOU know what to do if a colleague fell ill at work? 

Cyclist Pete Holroyd survived a heart attack thanks to cool-headed friends and lots of luck. But if more Britons were first-aid aware, many more lives could be saved.

At 5am on Saturday 8 June, six fit, middle-aged cyclists set out from Eastbourne to cycle the South Downs Way. On a chilly but beautiful day they faced a series of tough climbs on their route to Winchester, more than 100 miles away across Britain's newest national park.

They would cycle no more than a dozen miles. After a long climb out of the village of Alfriston up Bo Peep Hill, one cyclist collapsed. With pedal clips and backpack still on, his eyes open, he lay on the ground unconscious: within minutes he would be dead. Pete Holroyd, a 56-year-old IT expert, had had a heart attack. 

Save a life with First Aid

Holroyd was brought back to life after having been clinically dead for nearly half an hour. He is alive today thanks to the efforts of his friends, and of the emergency services and doctors – and because he had a lot of luck.

His survival was arguably even more remarkable than that of Fabrice Muamba, the footballer who collapsed on the pitch at Tottenham last year and was lifeless for 78 minutes. Muamba had a heart surgeon and a team of paramedics on hand. Holroyd had a group of mates in Lycra who, when he collapsed, were not even sure exactly where they were. They were only a few hundred yards from a "dead zone" for mobile phones, nowhere near a road, and the air ambulance was not operating that early in the morning.

"When I arrived he was very dead," said Colin Burden, the first trained helper on the scene, who had been called from his bed in Alfriston just after 6.30am. Burden, 67, a retired paramedic who is now a volunteer first aider, has worked in or with the ambulance service for more than 50 years. "I've seen remarkable survival cases before, but not like this. He must have had the gods looking down on him."

A shock from Burden's defibrillator eventually put a spark of life back into Holroyd's body, before a paramedic and two ambulances arrived to take over.

According to the British Red Cross, only one in seven people knows how to respond in an emergency such as this, a woefully low number compared with many parts of the world. Very few people survive once they stop breathing and their heart stops beating.

St John Ambulance estimates that many thousands of people die who would have a chance of survival if more people had first-aid training

"First-aid training is seen as a slightly geeky, a bit church hall and boy scouts," said Joe Mulligan of British Red Cross. "People don't realise that when you use it, it's usually on someone you love. In other countries it's seen as the ultimate humanitarian act to be able to save the life of somebody you love. It doesn't seem to be seen as a life skill by our government. It has never been on the curriculum, but a child can save a life."

- Brian Oliver, The Observer, Sunday 15 September 2013 

Do you require First Aid Training? SES run regular 1-day & 3-day course from our offices in Takeley, Essex. We also offer on-site training if required! Save a life today, or at least know how too.

Call 01279 873380 or email

Related services:

First Aid at Work (3 Day) FAA Level 3 NVQ Award

Emergency First Aid at Work (1 Day) FAA Level 2 NVQ Award