Friday 13th may be unlucky for some, but Gary Wright is fortunate his luck held out that day.
For as Gary, 49, sat in the cinema with his family, he suffered a cardiac arrest and was saved by the prompt action of two nurses in the audience and a team of emergency service people, including volunteers with Suffolk Accident Rescue Service (SARS).
Now Gary, a curing manager at Bury St Edmunds firm Direct Table Foods, has met the people who saved him and has already given a talk to raise awareness of the importance of bystander CPR at a West Suffolk College event organised by SARS.
Gary had joked with colleagues that day about Friday 13th but had forgotten about it by the time he cinema that evening with his wife Angela, daughters Hannah and Katie and family friend Amy.
He remembers thinking that the film was boring,then suddenly it felt like he was drowning and having an out-of-body experience.
One of his daughters, called 999 and two nurses in the audience rushed to assist Gary.
One of the nurses, Julie White, said: “I had never performed CPR on a patient outside a hospital environment before, it was an automatic response, I felt I had to do something. Luckily I was not on my own.”
Paramedics, Genete Fell, Neil Johnson and Alan Adams from the East of England Ambulance Service soon arrived and were followed by a volunteer critical-care team from SARS consisting of Dr Pam Chrispin, paramedic Steve Murrow and advanced critical-care practitioner Mike Hild.
They used a defibrillator to re-start his heart then Gary was then carefully manoeuvred out of the cinema to a waiting ambulance.
Dr Chrispin, who was the senior clinician at the scene, said: “We knew Gary needed an emergency operation at a specialist cardiac unit, so the decision to go to Papworth was a straightforward one, and Mike Hild and I accompanied him to Papworth Hospital in the back of the ambulance.”
Gary was released from Papworth a few days later and is recuperating at home.
He said: “I think I have only had about 10 days off in 28 years, I’ve run marathons and I cycle a lot. I swear if I’d have had a medical that day I would have been passed fit.
“I feel so lucky to be alive and I am really grateful to everybody who helped to save my life. I particularly want to thank the two nurses who gave me CPR and without whom I wouldn’t be here and also the SARS critical care team who accompanied me to Papworth and are all volunteers.
“Their charity relies on voluntary donations and provides a fantastic service. I wanted to highlight that and I subsequently set up a charity fundraising page which raised over £2,300.”