An elderly swimmer, who was helped back to life twice by Swindon Borough Council lifeguards and staff, is back swimming at his favourite local pool.
Ivor Pope, of Grange Park, suffered two Sudden Cardiac Arrests (SCA) in the space of two years while swimming at the Link Centre and was given CPR (Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation) both times by quick thinking leisure centre staff. He has only recently returned to the pool after the latest incident in December last year.
The 75-year-old, a former National and European Masters swimming champion, suffered his first SCA in January 2008 when completing a 4K swim in the Link Centre pool.
“My wife Ann was watching and I said to her, ‘I’m going to do a couple more lengths and then get out’,” explained Ivor, pictured with Anne in 2008 after the first incident. ”I don’t remember anything after that and Ann said the next thing she saw was me face down and not moving in the pool.”
Luckily for Ivor a Link Centre lifeguard was on hand to drag him out of the water and it wasn’t long before he and his colleagues performed CPR until the Great Western Ambulance paramedics arrived from an ambulance that had been parked just 50m away.
After paramedics applied shocks to Ivor’s heart, he was admitted to the Great Western Hospital’s Intensive Care Unit and later underwent a triple heart bypass at Bristol Royal Infirmary.
A month after being released, Ivor subsequently developed a blockage in one of his lung’s main arteries, but following a swift recovery, he was signed off by cardiac specialists to lead a normal life. And after a six-week cardio rehab course at the Link Centre he started his favourite exercise of swimming again at the Link Centre.
Ivor said: “There were some restrictions to the swimming. Butterfly swimming was prohibited and I would need to build slowly from a 10-minute swim until fully confident that the mending process was complete. But almost two years to the day it all happened again and I suffered another SCA at the Link Centre.”
Yet again, Ivor’s good fortune continued and in December 2009 he was surrounded by a whole host of Link Centre lifeguards who were taking part in lifesaving training in the pool.
The staff, many of whom were present the last time Ivor swam into difficulties, removed him from the pool and used CPR to ensure that oxygenated blood flowed to the brain. They then used an automatic external defibrillator, which was bought after Ivor’s initial cardiac arrest, to re-establish Ivor’s heart rhythm.
Paramedics again took him to the Great Western Hospital and it was decided that Ivor would be fitted with an Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator, which gives out measured shocks to re-establish regular heart beats. He has been told by surgeons he should have no further problems from his heart and has been given the all-clear to swim again.
“A Sudden Cardiac Arrest can happen without warning and with no pain to anyone young or old,” said Ivor. “Annually in the UK there are around 100,000 Sudden Cardiac Arrest that take place outside of hospitals and only five percent of people survive so I know just how extremely lucky I have been. The staff at the Link Centre were amazing and if it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t be here today. I can’t thank them enough.
“The nurses at the Great Western Hospital kept asking me to do their Lottery numbers because they said I was so lucky. So Ann and I did the Lottery ourselves and we kept winning small amounts twice a week for about six weeks.”
Carole Jamieson, Link Centre Manager, said: “I’m extremely proud of all the staff at the Link Centre. Although our staff undergo training on a monthly basis you never really know how it will come together when it is a real situation. They performed their tasks with true professionalism.”
Cllr Fionuala Foley, Swindon Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Leisure and Corporate Services, said: “Everyone at the council is delighted that Ivor has made such a good recovery.
“But I must say a special thank you, as Ivor has done, to the fantastic staff and the Link who used their excellent training to such good effect, not only once but twice. If it wasn’t for them and their part in the chain of survival, Ivor would not be here today.”
Ivor and Anne, pictured right, with some of his saviours, front Nikki Baker, Adam Girling. Back from left Laura Clark, Carol Affleck, Clive Seabrook, Rob Affleck