An 18-year-old returned to school to say thanks to the staff who saved him when he had a heart attack whilst playing football at school.
Portugal born Gerson Costa went from being a fit and healthy 17-year-old to fighting for his life when he suddenly collapsed on the playing field.
Luckily for him, the student at West Leeds Academy, in Bramley, Leeds, West Yorks., was surrounded by staff who were trained in life saving.
Gerson returned to his school one year after the event, on October 16 – Restart a Heart Day – a scheme run by the NHS to get CPR into schools and boost cardiac survival rates, to show his gratitude and support the cause.
First on the scene to help Gerson was student receptionist Sarah Stead, who immediately used the school’s defibrillator and performed CPR before colleagues and, later, paramedics arrived to take over.
Gerson spent the next few days in a coma at Leeds General Infirmary and was diagnosed with a heart condition which led to medics fitting an internal defibrillator.
After originally fearing he would never play football again, Gerson is now back on the pitch and on Monday – almost a year ago to the day since it happened – he spoke about the harrowing experience.
Gerson said he thinks about, and thanks, Sarah every morning.
He said: “It was a disease I was born with that I didn’t know about.
“This was going to happen in the future so I’m just glad it happened with this support around me.”
First-aider Sarah Stead said instinct kicked in that day and it was only afterwards that the enormity of what she had done had dawned on her.
She said: “You train for it and practise it year after year but I never thought I would be using it on a student, and not someone as fit and healthy as Gerson.”
Last year, the Yorkshire Ambulance Service saved more cardiac arrest patients than ever before – 310 compared to 240 in 2015-16.
Although the region’s survival rates have increased over the last two years, with 10.1 per cent surviving in 2016-17, statistics across the UK remain low compared to Norway, where 25 per cent survive – and where children learn CPR in schools.
About 900 volunteers visited 131 schools in Yorkshire for Restart a Heart day to learn the life-saving skills which can double a patient’s chance of survival.
Jason Carlyon, clinical development manager for YAS, said: “CPR is undoubtedly the most important step in the chain of survival.
“If this can be carried out in the critical few minutes before the arrival of an ambulance, it can mean the difference between life and death.”
Simon Gillespie, chief executive at the British Heart Foundation, said: “CPR is the difference between life and death for thousands of people every year in the UK who suffer a cardiac arrest.
“Every second counts, and it simply isn’t enough to hope that someone who knows CPR is present.
“We need everyone to learn this lifesaving skill to give them the confidence to step in and give CPR when someone collapses after a cardiac arrest.”
More than 25,000 youngsters learned the vital lesson on Restart a Heart Day in a bid by Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust to further improve survival rates from out-of-hospital cardiac arrests.