Comedian and actor Ted Robbins knows more than most how much he has to be grateful for on the health front.
The popular north west entertainer’s life was saved after he collapsed on the opening night of a 'Phoenix Nights Live' tour at Manchester Arena back in January 2015,
The medical emergency and his subsequent care at Wythenshawe Hospital have, not surprisingly, made him everlastingly grateful to the NHS and to those who gave him lifesaving care.
It has inspired the title of the autobiography he is now working on - 'The Night I Died' and it is also the reason he was the perfect choice to launch Lancashire Lifesavers’ new defibrillator campaign.
Ted shared his story earlier today to encourage community groups across the county to apply for one of 40 new public access defibrillators being funded by Lancashire County Council.
It is part of a wider effort to help save lives in Lancashire. As reported in the Lancashire Post earlier this week the Lancashire Lifesavers initiative also hopes to train 2,500 local residents and workers in the use of CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation/chest compressions) and alert them to and familiarise them with the use of defibrillators.
Ted had just returned from a medical check before our interview and quipped :“I’m never away from the NHS. God bless them.”
He had early direct experience of the National Health Service when training as a student nurse and later working as a hospital theatre porter during his university vacations, but he admits : “As a typical man I spent 40-odd years avoiding the doctor and then events took over.”
The events changed his life - for a start he slimmed down from being 21 stone and shed four stone.
Referring to the “miracle” of skilled staff treating and saving him he said: “I thought if I carry on as I was it’s like sticking two figures up to everyone.”
Believing he had to meet his medics “halfway” he changed both his eating and exercise habits. Ted’s “diet” started in hospital - with broken ribs and sternum from the intensive and essential CPR administered immediately after his collapse, he wasn’t exactly fit to eat.
He said: “I still enjoy my grub. I just try not to ‘pick’. People graze. I did. Sometimes you’re not even hungry. I eat well. I try to exercise most days. I go for a brisk walk for half an hour to 45 minutes a day. I go to a gym - I just do moderate exercise. I’m an ex-rugby player. I still have some fitness. I’m just enjoying life and I’m happy to have one.”
The launch of the bid to get more defibrillators in public places took place at BBC Radio Lancashire’s Blackburn base. Ted, who presents a regular Sunday show on BBC Radio Lancashire and whose TV credits range from “Benidorm” and “Bad Education” to “Coronation Street” unveiled the first defibrillator to be installed as part of the Lancashire Lifesavers campaign.
He is also urging people to sign up for the Lancashire Lifesavers’ CPR training courses which run until May 12.
Pointing out that in Lancashire at least 90 per cent of people suffering a cardiac arrest will not survive, he compared the county’s statistics to Denmark’: “In Denmark where school age children are taught CPR it’s down to 60 per cent.”
The Lancashire Lifesavers campaign, backed by the county council, BBC Rdio Lancashire and the North West Ambulance Service, follows the collapse of former county councillor Tony Jones. He suffered a cardiac arrest last September at a County Hall meeting and was given immediate CPR and treated with a defibrillator. He has now recovered. BBC Radio Lancashire reporter Mike Stevens, who had recently been on a first aid course, helped save Tony and had the idea for the Lifesavers campaign.
A spokesman for the county council said: “We are investing £30,000 to buy more defibrillators across Lancashire and we want people to suggest where they should be located. To suggest a location email firstname.lastname@example.org by May 31 and let us know why your community needs one.”
Also adding their voices to the campaign were footballers Kevin Gallacher and Jamie Hoyland who took part in a Lancashire Lifesavers’ CPR training class at the radio station.
Jamie, a former youth coach at PNE, who also played for Burnley, is now in charge of under 23 recruitment at Everton. He said: “My eldest brother, Andrew died from a cardiac arrest two and a half years ago. He was as fit as anything. He had been running and just dropped dead. You think that could be somebody else’s brother on the side of the road and how can you help?”
Emphasising that cardiac arrest hits young as well as older people, he stressed that training in CPR and using that training could save someone’s life.
Jamie, who lives in Rawtenstall, said: “Just go and do it. It’s 45 minutes of your life and it could save someone else’s life...it’s fantastic.”
Kevin, a football commentator and former PNE and Blackburn player who lives in Ribble Valley, said that following a brother- in- law suffering a heart attack he was keen to back the campaign: “CPR is simple and you could save someone’s life. Get a defibrillator - it could save someone’s life.”
The Preston Lancashire Lifesavers courses are fully enrolled, but there are vacancies on courses in Lancaster, Chorley, Burnley, Morecambe, Blackpool and Blackburn.
You can book sessions via www.lancashire.gov.uk/health-and-social-care/lancashire-lifesavers/