BY JAMES TWOMEY
A football fan who survived a heart attack while watching his beloved Arsenal play Tottenham Hotspur has been reunited with the medical team who helped saved his life.
Bruce McKenzie, 55, from Greenwich, returned to the Emirates Stadium where and was invited to meet the St John Ambulance volunteer first aiders and London Ambulance Service paramedics who treated him in December last year.
On December 2, Bruce had gone to watch them take on rivals Spurs in what was a thrilling encounter that saw Arsenal win the derby 4-2 – which may have been a contributing factor.
Bruce said: “I suddenly developed chest pains and other worrying symptoms. With the help of a steward, I found two very helpful St John Ambulance first aiders somewhere between the North Bank and East Stand.”
Bruce was taken to see Leah, a volunteer first aider from St John Ambulance’s Highgate Unit, who was stationed in a treatment room with another volunteer, Rachel Oakley.
Rachel said: “Bruce told us he’d been having chest pains for around half an hour and didn’t feel very well, but he thought it was just indigestion. We ran all the observational tests on him – all were completely normal. He insisted the pain wasn’t bad, but a man of a certain age presenting with chest pains meant alarm bells were ringing and we knew he needed to see a doctor.”
Bruce was taken down to the main treatment room to see the match doctor, where an ECG showed he needed to be taken to hospital straight away.
London Ambulance Service team leader John Harrison was the first LAS medic on hand to help assess Bruce’s condition.
John said: “Bruce’s ECG showed that he was having a heart attack, so we wanted to get him to a heart attack centre as quickly as possible. But he went into cardiac arrest as we were getting him into the ambulance.”
London Ambulance Service started CPR and used a defibrillator to shock Bruce’s heart.
John added: “They managed to get Bruce back, but he went into cardiac arrest another two times on the way to the Royal Free. There’s no doubt that the speed of the response to get lifesaving treatment to Bruce, as well as excellent team work, helped to save his life. We are all immensely proud of what we achieved that day.”
Bruce said: “This was the Left Anterior Descending artery, which is also known as the widow maker.
“A blockage in this artery I am told is invariably fatal without very prompt and expert treatment, complicated by the fact that this one came with very little warning.
“I had long enjoyed good health, felt fine most of the day, and have absolutely no medical history of this type of illness; this was one of those under the radar unfortunate medical events that sometimes just happen.
“The good news is that the excellent work of the steward, the St John Ambulance first aiders, the doctors, the London Ambulance Service paramedics and staff at the Royal Free Hospital meant that not only was my life saved, but I was discharged just days later with very little damage to my heart.
“I consider myself lucky, but the reality is it was professional people that saved me, not luck. The luck factor was where it happened.
“This is one of those right place right time situations – a very fortunate chain of brilliant and professional people were available to save my life. If this had occurred virtually anywhere else outside a hospital, I doubt I would be here to tell the tale.”