Cherie Howie is a reporter for the Herald on Sunday.

Funds plea comes from heart

Man adds voice to St John appeal after ambo officers prevent his death from cardiac arrest.

Andrew Jones measures his survival from a near-deadly heart attack in five-minute events.

It's what his cardiologist told him was the difference between life and death.

If he'd waited five minutes longer to call for help, he'd be dead. If ambulance officers hadn't arrived at his Highland Park home in less than five minutes, he'd be dead. And if it had taken more than five minutes to bring him back to life after his heart stopped twice, he'd be dead.

Fortunately, he has more than five minutes to express his gratitude to those who saved his life and add his voice to St John's annual appeal week, which begins today and aims to raise money for more ambulances and equipment.

Jubilant after his brush with death, Mr Jones needs much more than five minutes.

The 53-year-old had a heart attack in his sleep five weeks ago, waking sweating and with pain at the top of his shoulder and in his jaw.

The St John Ambulance crew of Peter Holloway and Riaan du Plessis arrived three minutes after the call, about seven minutes before Mr Jones went into cardiac arrest.

When the pair put defibrillator pads on his chest, he knew cardiac arrest was coming. But he felt relief.

"I thought 'oh bugger, I'm going', but I also knew I was in good hands."

One shock restarted his heart.

He was taken to Auckland City Hospital, where he suffered a second cardiac arrest as he was being put on the operating table, and had sat up to thank the ambulance officers. Mr Jones said he couldn't think of anything else to do in the situation.

"Who wouldn't be thankful to the people who just saved your life? I thanked everybody then and in the hospital, from the tea lady to the surgeon."

For the officers who helped, including intensive care paramedic Rachael Wallen, the response was welcome, as it always is. Ms Wallen has been a paramedic for five years, but had notched less than one thank-you a year.

"We don't do it for the thank-yous, but it helps."

For Mr Jones, expressing his gratitude is only one way he wants to give back.

Mostly, he wants everyone to support the organisation that helped save his life and could help save theirs.

Encouraging others to learn CPR and confidently use defibrillators was also at the top of his list. Both techniques gave responding ambulance officers a better chance of saving patients once they had arrived.

He learned first aid because of a long history of heart problems in his own family - his sister died unexpectedly of a heart attack aged 24 and both his parents also suffered heart attacks - but said his knowledge helped keep him calm during his own heart attack.

It had also helped him to save an elderly woman's life when she suffered a cardiac arrest in Queen St 20 years ago, Mr Jones said.

"Let's start backing St John and let's start backing ourselves. Use these guys - get the training, start saving yourself and start saving others."


• St John treated and transported more than 425,000 patients via ambulance last year.

• The organisation, run by staff and volunteers, responded to 455,000 111 emergency calls over the same period.

• Each fully equipped yellow ambulance cost more than $180,000 to buy, while an advanced life support defibrillator is worth about $40,000. It costs $2740 to run one ambulance each day.

How to donate

Donations can be made at and at ASB branches, Briscoes and Rebel Sports stores during appeal week, or ph 0800 ST JOHN (0800 785 646). Collectors will be in communities throughout New Zealand, and Z Energy stations are selling St John sticking plasters.

- NZ Herald

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