Good friends George Wiseman and Chris Pinnell are two extremely keen cyclists. It was on 31st July 2016, that a fast and furious cycle on the Mendips ended with George needing to save his friends life.  Although Chris has no recollection of the incident, George explains what happened and together they give a full account, praising the work of the emergency services involved.

Chris and I had planned a fast and furious cycle ride on the Mendips with as many hills as we could cram in within our three hour window. For the first ever time, Chris had agreed to take in a café stop around the halfway point, however events which unfolded that day would mean that we never made it that far.

After summiting Burrington Coombe, we proceeded along a well cycled route towards Priddy. As we climbed to the top of a short steep hill, I became aware that Chris had unusually dropped back. When I turned around, I saw him on the side of the road on all fours and in obvious pain. Very quickly Chris collapsed, became unconscious and stopped breathing altogether. My military first aid training kicked in and was dragged from my memory bank in a bid to save my helpless Lycra clad pal.

Fortunately, another cyclist was in the vicinity who I asked to call for an ambulance. For the next twenty exhausting minutes, whilst waiting for the arrival of the emergency services, I administered CPR in a bid to keep the precious oxygen pumping around his heart and brain. Meanwhile, my ears were straining for the welcoming sound of not only a road ambulance siren but, given our isolated position, the precious sound of whirling helicopter blades of the air ambulance.

First to arrive was the land ambulance from Weston and local emergency medical Land Rover. A few minutes later, the air ambulance crew arrived and everyone worked together brilliantly in trying to stabilise Chris and prepare him for his flight to hospital. He was placed on a stretcher and taken to the helicopter having to cross a fence in the process.

After 30 years in the military, I was well aware of the slick and professional teamwork of medical teams but this was my first experience in a civilian setting.

I was immensely impressed and proud how the Ambulance Service and Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance teams quickly synergised their finely honed capabilities to give Chris the very best chance of survival.

Within minutes, Chris was flown to Bristol Royal Infirmary whilst I was left with the logistical challenge of recovering the bikes home with the help of my wife Louise.”

A view from the Crew

Air Ambulance Doctor Rob Török remembers Chris’s incident well….

We were tasked by HEMS control to a collapsed cyclist at 9:31 on that morning. Within three minutes we were in the air on what was a bright and sunny day. We had a clear view of the ambulance and scene as we arrived overhead less than 20 minutes after our initial call. There was a suitable landing site just beyond the incident with good access to the patient. 

The ambulance crew quickly provided us with an update on events so far, including the fact that they had already needed to provide two shocks to defibrillate Chris’s heart. I remember George confirming that he was trained and had provided CPR from the start of the incident as well as helping with information and logistics after we had taken over control of the situation.  

Paul Owen and I rapidly re-assessed Chris’s condition and we confirmed our plan to anaesthetise and intubate him. This was carried out before transferring him into the helicopter ready to fly to Bristol Royal Infirmary. Just as we were about to take off Chris’s heart once again stopped beating. After another defibrillation his condition remained stable throughout the 12 minute flight from scene to hospital. We then handed Chris’s care over to the resuscitation team and cardiologist in the Emergency Department at BRI.

Chris’s positive outcome was most certainly due to a number of key factors:

  • Chris’s initial difficulty was witnessed and responded to rapidly and effectively by a member of the public who had prior knowledge and training.
  • An early 999 call was made to summon assistance alongside effective CPR being delivered by George until the Ambulance crew arrived and took over.
  • Early identification of an abnormal heart rhythm and the provision of two defibrillation shocks followed by other elements of advanced life support.
  • Early tasking of our Critical Care Team by the HEMS desk, enabling specialist critical care skills to be brought to the scene.
  • Rapid transfer to a specialist hospital which would best meet Chris’s needs.

Chris’s appreciation

My brain blocked the events of what happened that day, although I was told that I reacted to George’s voice at hospital. As a fit and healthy 46 year old, who has always exercised since a teenager, never smoked, eats healthily and doesn’t drink much alcohol, hearing that I had suffered a cardiac arrest was clearly a shock to me.

After arriving at the Bristol Royal Infirmary Intensive Care Unit I underwent angioplasty (a procedure to widen narrowed or obstructed arteries or veins) and had two stents put into one of my arteries; I remained in an induced coma for the next 48 hours and when I awoke my wonderful wife was at my side and gave me the news.

Eight weeks on, I am recuperating at home but it is clear I owe my life to George, the NHS Paramedics and of course the Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance. 

It was certainly the intervention of the professionals that ensured I got to the hospital in excellent time & in a stable condition, which was critical to my survival."

Please help to give someone like Chris their best chance of life, by learning safe and effective CPR.

If you've been inspired by Chris's story and would like to help us to continue saving lives, we would be grateful to receive your donation. No matter how big or small, every penny donated really will make a big difference! Thank you.

Please select a donation amount (required)
Set up a regular payment Donate