A Helsby man who had a heart attack whilst driving along a motorway has been reunited with the resilience firefighters and others who helped save his life.
Mark Ashton has no memory of the incident that occurred in Runcorn between junctions 11 and 12 of the M56 westbound shortly after 3pm on Wednesday 8 July.
After the 56-year-old had lost consciousness and collided with the central reservation, Neil Harrison and Ian Lloyd were on hand to give him life-saving CPR just three days after they had undergone resuscitation training as part of their temporary return to Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service to assist their former colleagues during the coronavirus pandemic.
The pair from Chester were driving behind Mark in separate cars when he had the heart attack behind the wheel of his Nissan Qashqai.
When they got to Mark he was in cardiac arrest, but by the time they had finished giving him CPR and handed him over to the care of paramedics he had regained a faint pulse – and he is now back home recovering well from heart surgery.
Mark says that he will be forever indebted to Neil, Ian and the two members of the public who gave him CPR and helped save his life that day, and he was delighted to have the chance to thank them in person at Frodsham Fire Station on Monday 21 September.
Following the reunion, Mark said: “It was fantastic meeting my four guardian angels who helped bring me back from the dead and to tell them all how grateful my family and I are for all that they did.
“If I hadn’t been fortunate enough to have a group of people with such high-level CPR knowledge behind me when I had the heart attack whilst driving along the motorway, I would not be here now and I’d never have met my latest granddaughter April.
“My partner Janet and I have eight children, 11 grandchildren and one great-grandchild between us.
“April was born 10 days after my heart attack.
“Fate was certainly smiling on me that day on the M56 and I have wanted to thank my four heroes in person ever since I woke up in hospital and found out what had happened and what they did for me. It was emotional meeting them all.”
Neil, 53, and Ian, 57, also found the reunion an emotional experience.
Neil said: “When we were giving Mark CPR we thought he was dead. To see him now a few months on looking so well was amazing.
“If it had not been for the coronavirus pandemic I think he would have died.
“Neil and I joined Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service on the same day more than 30 years ago.
“We both retired from the service a few years ago and we have both come back temporarily to put our skills to good use during the pandemic.
“As part of our refresher training, three days before Mark’s medical episode we did an advanced trauma care course, and when the incident occurred we were driving home to Chester from a different training course in Lymm, Warrington.
“As a result, we were in the right place at the right time and the knowledge we needed to help Mark was fresh in our minds in terms of the depth of pressure to apply to the chest when doing CPR and the frequency and speed of chest compressions.”
Ian, who works for a hospice in Backford, added: “I am so pleased that Mark is okay. I’ve never had a positive result from CPR before and I am really glad that we were able to put our training to good use and help him.
“It was lovely meeting Mark at Frodsham Fire Station and to see him looking so well.”
The first people at the scene to help Mark, after his car had swayed across three lanes of the motorway and scraped along the central reservation before coming to a stop, were George King, 24, and Mark Walton, 58.
George, a security firm manager from Cheshire who was a Special Constable based in Warrington for two years, cut off the casualty’s seatbelt and got him out of the car with the help of Mark Walton, a radio engineer from Anglesey in North Wales who was a submariner in the Royal Navy for 16 years.
Mark Walton then helped George give him CPR, with both men using the knowledge they had gained from their own resuscitation training in the recent past.
Whilst they did so, Mark Walton’s 39-year-old work colleague Gavin Shaw, from Caernarfon in North Wales, called for an ambulance.
Neil and Ian took over CPR duties when they arrived at the scene, alternating chest compressions between them.
Paramedics and then an air ambulance doctor subsequently arrived. Happy with Neil and Ian’s chest compressions technique, they worked around the pair.
Paramedics supplied Mark with oxygen and administered three shocks to him via a defibrillator.
The shocks were interspersed by three-minute spells of chest compressions by Neil and Ian, and the combination led to Mark regaining a faint heartbeat.
A specialist machine then took over the chest compressions before Mark was put in an ambulance and taken to hospital.
He subsequently underwent heart surgery and had a stent fitted.
Mark, who used to work at Manchester International Airport as a night manager, was in hospital for around six weeks.
It was his second heart attack, with a less severe one occurring 10 years ago.
Neil, who owns a central heating company in Chester, added: “The members of the public did a really good job in getting Mark out of the car, calling for an ambulance and giving him CPR before we arrived.
“It was a real team effort and it was great seeing the other two people who gave Mark CPR at the reunion again as well.”
Pictures show (top) Mark Ashton with the resilience firefighters who helped save his life, Ian Lloyd, left, and Neil Harrison, right and Mark’s son Craig Ashton, centre, with the four people who gave his dad CPR, from left, George King, Mark Walton and resilience firefighters Ian Lloyd and Neil Harrison