Jonathan Belke was on holiday with his wife in West Lulworth. They decided to walk to Durdle Door from where they were staying and made their way up the hill for a relaxing lunch at Lulworth Cove. Without warning, Jonathan suffered a cardiac arrest. He kindly shares his story and highlights the importance of people learning CPR.

The incident

Jonathan Belke and family

I don’t remember much about the incident as I was unconscious throughout and I don’t know all the names of those who helped to save me. However, what I do know is that a family of good Samaritans were there and helped to give me a chance. Two sisters called Josie and Jasmine immediately came to my aid. They assessed my situation, got me in the recovery position, realised how critical I was and started CPR within 90 seconds or so of my collapse. I believe it was the sound of my head hitting the ground, that alerted them and others around me of my predicament.

Initially, it was Josie who gave me CPR while Jasmine called the emergency services. She stayed in touch with them, receiving instructions, while also trying to manage the scene as it was a very public place. She organised for Jake from the Boatshed Café to run to the estate visitors centre for additional help and to get their automated external defibrillator (AED), while getting people to relieve her sister in giving me CPR. Thankfully, Josie is a midwife and Jasmine a veterinary nurse, so both were familiar with medical interventions and procedures – their knowledge proved crucial that day.

Others took turns in delivering CPR before the AED arrived and was attached to me. Josie and Jasmine’s mum comforted my wife and kept encouraging her daughters, while also managing the scene. The teamwork and full commitment of the family to give me a fighting chance of survival cannot ever be underestimated.

The arrival of help

Apparently, I received seven shocks with the AED before the team at Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance arrived. They were first on scene, followed by the ambulance service and immediately got to work. I was attached to a Lucas chest compression device so the team could focus on getting me stabilised. Two cannulas were placed so that intravenous medicines could be administered and once I was stable enough, I was put on a ventilator, placed into an induced coma and prepared for the flight to Royal Bournemouth Hospital. The Coast Guard Rescue Team assisted with carrying me to the air ambulance, while my wife was assisted by crew of the ambulance service in getting her to the hospital.

Jonathan's time in ICU

My first real memory of the incident was when I was fading in and out of consciousness in the Intensive Care Unit. My confused mental capacity, combined with the noise of medical staff moving about, beeps of machine noises, flashing lights and the realisation that I couldn’t really move and had lots of tubes and wires in me was quite overwhelming.

When I heard a voice I recognised, it was my wife sitting behind me. She was saying something to me about my heart, that I had been in an induced coma and been in hospital for a while.

I was in Royal Bournemouth for about a month. My recovery was going surprisingly well after being moved from the Intensive Care Unit until I contracted pneumonia. This pushed me back a bit, however, the day before my discharge I was stable enough to have an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) fitted and since then I have continued my recovery from home.

Recovering from the cardiac arrest

Since then, I have had online sessions related to cardiac awareness and mental health aspects of rehabilitation, in addition to six sessions of physical cardiac rehabilitation at King George Hospital in Goodmayes. While I still battle with survivor’s guilt, I try not to focus on questioning why I lived. Positive mental health is really key to overcoming and recovering from such a cardiac event. It’s definitely not been easy and believe me, while my recovery still has its ups and downs, I am so fortunate to not have had any major neurological or physical problems as a result of my cardiac arrest.

The charity’s patient and family liaison team have been easily accessible and very helpful in answering the questions that my family and I have had. Such thoughtful aftercare support has helped me understand what happened and has been vital to my recovery and moving ahead.

I consider myself lucky to have had my cardiac arrest next to a professional midwife and veterinary nurse. The fact that I survived the first hour, first few days and the first week, were, and still are, an encouragement for me to carry on and persevere.

Jonathan belke in Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance Cap

As I live too far away, I can’t help by volunteering my time to the charity. However, in addition to now donating and wearing DSAA hats wherever I go, I am hoping that by sharing my story it will raise awareness of their life-saving work and I would encourage people to support them if they can.

With respect, I would also ask everyone to please learn CPR, be it online or in person. When out and about, take note of the locations of defibrillators as such an emergency can happen to anyone at any time.

Thank you again to everyone who helped me in my time of need, for which I am so very grateful.

VIEW FROM THE CREW: Kirsty Caswell, Patient and Family Liaison Nurse

We echo Jonathan’s sentiments of members of the public learning CPR and finding where their nearest defibrillator is. Jonathan’s incredible recovery and outcome are both largely due to the immediate bystander CPR that he received that day. His story is a great example of the chain of survival and the importance of early CPR in the cardiac arrest situation. Our patients have an enormous amount of mental recovery to go through as well as physical. Where possible, we are here to answer questions about their pre-hospital event and help them in their post-event recovery. It has been a pleasure to be able to assist Jonathan in processing the events that happened that day and I wish him lots of luck and good health moving forward. Oh, and we are very grateful for him always wearing his DSAA hat!

The DSAA team that attended Jonathan’s incident were: Stewart McMorran, Jo Hernandez Josh Bianchi, Mario Carretta and Jack Cook. Also in attendance from the ambulance service were: Jacqueline Wootton, Suresh Gandhi, Martin Prouten, Emily King and Megan Alders.

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