Holidaymaker’s heart stopped four times - and he lived to tell the tale

Mike Mortlock with Jim Allwright
Mike Mortlock with Jim Allwright

A holidaymaker who died four times has praised the two men that saved his life.

Jim Allwright, a regular visitor at Normans Bay Caravan Park, went into cardiac arrest and by a stroke of luck was spotted by John Thornley, who runs the shop at the site.

The drama unfolded when the 71-year-old, who had been in the shop earlier on, collapsed outside.

Mr Thornley was locking up and saw the great-grandfather slumped against a nearby dustbin before seeing him collapse to the ground.

The 67-year-old called out to Mick Mortlock who lives in a house next to the site and the pair set about carrying out CPR on Mr Allwright. They took it in turns to carry out chest compressions while the other spoke to an emergency medical advisor on the phone.

Mr Allwright, who owns a caravan on the site, said he had little recollection of the incident adding, “All I remember was waking up and they said what happened and how Mick and John saved me and brought me back.

“I was told I was supposed to have died for 10 minutes and here I am now.”

Referring to the bravery of the two men, the keen fisherman added, “There’s no words I can say. It’s unbelievable. It’s marvellous that they were able to do that.”

Mr Allwright, who is recovering well since being rushed to the DGH and fitted with a stent and a defibrillator, said he had felt unwell weeks before the incident on Thursday March 28 and had sought medical advice. Around 10 years ago he had stents fitted when he suffered from pain in his jaw and arm.

The north London resident also praised staff at the DGH where he paid a visit last week and had a series of tests.

He said, “I can’t drive at the moment but if it weren’t for Mick and John I wouldn’t be here at all.

“It’s a miracle, it was only John in the car park and if he hadn’t have looked back I would have still been there.”

The heroic twosome were modest about their efforts.

Mr Thornley said, “I ran to him and saw he was breathing at that point. I phoned for an ambulance and did chest compressions and once or twice I lost him and managed to get him back again. Mick also carried out the chest compressions and we did that until the ambulance arrived.

“It’s something that I’d do for anybody. I was concerned about the chap and that we saved him, I was anxious about that.”

Mr Mortlock, 69, added, “I’ve never done this before and hope I never have to do it again.

“If I was left on my own it would have been pure panic but John being a former nurse told me what to do. We would carry out chest compressions for about four or five minutes each and then swap over.

“I didn’t really think about it at the time we just did what we had to.”

The two men worked together for 35 minutes - during which time Mr Allwright died four times - until emergency services arrived. He was taken to Eastbourne DGH where he stayed for 11 days before being discharged.

The pair were also praised by emergency services for their quick thinking. A spokesman for South East Coast Ambulance Service said, “The actions of those at the scene who called 999 and began CPR before we arrived undoubtedly saved this gentleman’s life. They should be very proud of their quick thinking.

“Our crews were able to continue the resuscitation attempt and deliver two shocks to the patient’s heart before he was taken as a priority to the DGH.

“The care a patient in cardiac arrest receives before the arrival of the ambulance crew is vital and gives any patient the best possible chance of survival and recovery.

“It’s important people remain as calm as possible and follow the instructions of the emergency medical advisor.”

Mr Mortlock, treasurer of Normans Bay Residents’ Association, said since the incident the group was looking at the possibility of buying a defibrillator for the village and setting up courses to learn how to use it.