Family's thanks after sailor who suffered cardiac arrest saved at Preston Marina

The family of a keen sailor have thanked the boating community at Preston Marina for saving his life.

Friday, 9th August 2019, 4:19 pm
Updated Friday, 9th August 2019, 5:19 pm
His family, have now completed a 32-mile walk to raise money for the emergency services and the critical care team at Royal Preston Hospital
His family, have now completed a 32-mile walk to raise money for the emergency services and the critical care team at Royal Preston Hospital

Dennis Shiels, who was due to take out his new boat Jubilee on its maiden voyage, had been at the Marina to make some final touches to the craft, when he suffered a cardiac arrest.

It was thanks to the quick-thinking of two other boat owners and a young woman who works at the Marina that Dennis, 67, is still alive.

Dennis’s daughter Christina, 30, who launched a fundraiser to support emergency services and hospital staff as an expression of the family’s gratitude, said: “We are so grateful for everyone who has contributed to our dad being with us today.

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Dennis Shiels suffered a cardiac arrest as he prepared to take his new boat out.

“As a family we are focused on giving something back as a thank you to the support we have received from those that found and tended to our dad.”

Christina added: “Dad had been up doing some work on the boat and he was found unconscious on the jetty by a couple of guys who also have boats.

“We don’t know how long he was unconscious for before anyone found him.

“A couple of guys did CPR and then a girl who works at the Marina shocked him with a defibrillator.

“Four ambulances, two helicopters arrived at the scene. There were firefighters who were down there anyway doing water training so it was all hands on deck. It was all quite full on at the time.

“The people at Preston Marina had all actually just received first aid training just before.

“We got a phone call within 40 minutes of him being found and we got taken up by the police to Preston hospital and we lived on site at the hospital until he was relocated closer to home.

“My mum and brothers went down to the Marina afterwards and everyone was quite shaken up. It was quite an experience for them.”

Dennis, who is still in hospital now and is and in and out of consciousness, had bought the Jubilee, a sailing yacht, with his good friend Robert Matthews earlier in the year.

The two had motored the boat from Fleetwood to Preston Marina and had been working on it for months before they planned to take it out on their maiden voyage on it along the coast.

They had wanted to circumnavigate the British Isles next year.

But Dennis suffered the cardiac arrest the day before he and Robert had been due to set off on their adventure - on Tuesday, July 2.

Sue Cameron, managing director of Preston Marina who witnessed what happened, says she is proud of the community at the Marina for coming together at a time of crisis.

She also stressed how worthwhile defibrillators were.

“A girl who works at the Marina ran down with the defib,” she said. “It was quite a shocking experience for her.

“The gentleman who did the CPR was one of our boat holders. Our boat holders who were down there rang us and the girl ran out.

“I ran with her and she got the machine there. CPR was being performed. It was as good as it could have been. He came round because of the shock of the defib.

“The sad thing is the gentleman hasn’t made a full recovery. It’s all very sad.

“Nobody wants to be a personal hero but I’m very proud of the community down here. We are hoping for good news. Defibs really are worth having.

“Some years ago we as a community got North West Ambulance Service involved to run first aid courses.

“There was a group of about 60 of us who learnt how to use the defib. Since that training several years ago we’ve had regular training in CPR.

“Our little community has saved a least two people which we are proud of.

“We wish Dennis a full recovery.”

Christina says Dennis, who lives with his wife Mandy, 55, in Baildon, a village in West Yorkshire, has now been transferred from Royal Preston to another hospital closer to home.

Asked how her father was doing she said: “It’s hard to say at the moment, he’s had a couple of setbacks this week.

“We don’t know the extent of the brain damage. In the early days we were told to prepare ourselves that he wasn’t going to wake up.

“He’s awake at the moment but not fully aware, he’s in and out of consciousness.

“He’s starting extensive neurology rehab.”

To try to keep themselves busy while Dennis was in hospital, Christina says the family decided to undertake a 32-mile walk to raise funds for the groups who helped him that day.

She said: “We knew what he was intending to do.

“There was very little we could do for Dad. So being in that situation it was good for us to have a focus and do something.

“We wanted to do something for people that’s what spurred us on. We wanted it to be a significant distance and relevant.

“We started the walk at Fleetwood Marina, then came down Cleveleys, Blackpool, St Annes and then inland to Preston Hospital.

“There were nine of us in total with members of the family and dad’s friend Robert and his wife Claire.”

The walk, which took the group 11.5 hours to complete, has fundraised more than £5,400 for the Critical Care Unit at Royal Preston Hospital, as well as the North West Ambulance Service and to provide replacement pads for the defibrillator at Preston Marina.

Christina said: “We all found the walk incredibly tough but we were doing it for such personal reasons that we were motivated by dad and that really helped us through those last few miles.”