Former county councillor Tony Jones had six very important words to say when he made a return visit to County Hall this week - thank you for saving my life.
It was in September that Coun Jones collapsed in the main council chamber, just moments after making an emotional speech at an extraordinary meeting of the full council.
It is estimated he had no pulse for 41 minutes after suffering a cardiac arrest. The former Morecambe North councillor later had a quadruple heart bypass at Blackpool Victoria Hospital.
He was back to thank in person those who helped directly in the moments after his collapse - Labour County Councillor John Fillis, BBC Radio Lancashire political reporter Mike Stevens, the council’s cleaning facilities manager Matthew (Matt) Dean and the ambulance service.
He also wanted to stress the importance of early intervention in the case of a cardiac arrest and launch a new first aid training programme called Lancashire Lifesavers.
He said: “The quality of the surgery in Blackpool was fantastic. The quality of intensive care was fantastic and I’m very,very lucky. I was in surgery for six hours, then had internal bleeding and was in surgery for (another) three hours.”
After returning home Tony developed pneumonia and spent further weeks recovering in hospital in Lancaster, where he noted: “The nursing care was second to none. I’m very grateful to both hospitals. I’ve always found that the NHS, when I’ve had a problem, they sorted it out, This was just a rather larger problem than they’ve had to sort in the past.”
But above all Tony, 64, stressed that the expert NHS medical care he has benefited from and is so grateful for, would have been impossible had not the correct first aid help - cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR, a combination of chest compressions and rescue breaths) and use of a defbrillator - been applied in those vital first minutes after he lost consciousness. At Blackpool Victoria Hospital he was placed in an induced coma to aid his recovery.
He said: “I have no recollection or memory of collapsing. I remember making the speech. I remember sitting down after that it is a complete blank. The only thing I remember is waking up in Blackpool Victoria Hospital after nine days of an induced coma. If I had not been in the council chamber and John and Matthew and the others had not been here that would have been the end.”
“My message to the public would be that I had a cardiac arrest, a very severe heart attack and I was very seriously ill. Despite that John, Matthew and Mike and the other helpers kept me going until the paramedics arrived...I would not have survived. It’s as simple as that. The quality of the CPR meant I was still mentally fully functional. It was the quality of the CPR that kept the brain alive.”
The long serving Conservative and, more recently, Independent councillor, was both unlucky and lucky - lucky in that the three who came to his aid all had first aid knowledge.
Coun Fillis, the first to apply CPR, was a trained First Responder at Ashworth Hospital and is a retired mental health nurse. He said: “The most important thing was to get helping and get an ambulance.”
Just a week earlier Mike had completed a two day first aid training course at work. He had noticed a defibrillator on the wall of a county hall corridor as he walked in that day and raced to get it and later accompanied the councillor to hospital. He said: "I had never done any first aid training before. What I got from my first aid training I want people to get from Lancashire Lifesavers."
Meanwhile Matthew was watching a live webcast of the extraordinary meeting of the council downstairs and rushed to assist. He explained: “My mum taught first aid so I’ve been on hundreds of courses.”
Sign Up for Lancashire Lifesavers
A new Lancashire Lifesavers scheme is being launched this week following former councillor Tony Jones’ collapse and recovery.
Tony hopes as many people as possible will now sign up to take advantage of a short first aid training session on how to do CPR and use a defibrillator.
The first sessions will be held on April 16 and will continue until May 8. Venues range from county hall to Blackpool Library, BBC Radio Lancashire to Astley Hall in Chorley.
The North West Ambulance Service will be jointly running the county wide campaign with the county council and BBC Radio Lancashire. The campaign was the idea of reporter Mike Stevens, who helped save Tony’s life.
The county council has contributed £30,000 to pay for the purchase and installation of 40 defibrillators at coummunity venues.
Tony said: "It's vital people sign up for Lancashire Lifesavers."
To sign up go to https://northwestambulance.eventbrite.co.uk
For top first aid tips see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=azmpvgIdjAA