A man who suddenly fell lifeless to the ground, foaming at the mouth, while on a stroll through a popular Napier park likely owes his life to a group of passersby who rushed to help.

"I thought he was going to die then and there," Geoff Gerven's partner Moana Dyer said of the heart attack that caused Gerven to go into cardiac arrest.

"Nothing really prepares you for that moment and it all just happened so quickly."

On Saturday, September 7 at 10.30am, Gerven and Dyer were taking their dog for a walk at Napier's Park Island.


"We were walking along with our dog and then nature called for it so Geoff stopped to clean it up and I walked on ahead," Dyer said.

"I had only gone a few metres ahead when I heard a yelp and when I looked back Geoff was foaming from the mouth and next thing I knew he curled over to the ground lifeless."

Dyer said she immediately called for an ambulance but, within moments, members of the public had come to their aid.

"I was surprised how quickly people reacted because just before it all happened I remembered how quite the area was at the time."

Two members of the public helped to perform CPR on Gerven to help keep him alive.

Bronwyn Berry, an Air Force veteran of 18 years, initiated CPR after seeing a group rush to Gerven's aid.

"When I first saw him, I thought he was dead," Berry said.

"I was searching for a pulse but couldn't really feel one and the only thing that showed some life was very shallow and very few breaths."

Moana Dyer says she is already taking steps to learn first aid and says it is vital for everyone to learn. Photo / File
Moana Dyer says she is already taking steps to learn first aid and says it is vital for everyone to learn. Photo / File

Berry performed CPR on Gerven for a couple of minutes with the help from a 111 operator and her first aid training in the Air Force but after starting to grow tired a young unknown man took over the compressions.

About five minutes later, paramedics arrived to take over at the scene and managed to register a pulse using a defibrillator.

Dyer said, according to the paramedics, if it wasn't for the immediate and constant CPR her partner received at the scene he would have died then and there.

"On the day, everything happened so quickly that I didn't get the chance to thank those that helped and say how thankful we both are for what they did."

She posted on Napier News to spread her thanks and has since heard back from Berry.

"They didn't need to come forward. For me, it is just a way for them to hopefully see how grateful we are for what they did."

Gerven is now in Wellington Hospital waiting for a triple-bypass operation.

"The only thing that is really worrying him is how bored he is having to sit around waiting for this operation," Dyer joked.

In New Zealand, about 1800 people are treated for a cardiac arrest each year. Only one in 10 survive for 30 days, according to St John statistics.

That's partly because only 60 per cent of victims receive CPR from a non-medic bystander.

St John say for every minute without CPR or defibrillation, a patient's chance of survival falls by 10 to 15 per cent.

Dyer says she is already taking steps to learn first aid and says it is vital for everyone to learn because it could be needed in any situation.

"One thing I am grateful for this happening is that it was in a public place because if it was at home and it happened in front of me I wouldn't know what to do at all," Dyer said.

"It has really opened my eyes to how vital something like this is and how important it is for people to know even the basics of first aid and CPR."