A man who suffered a cardiac arrest has finally met the stranger who helped save his life, using vital first-aid skills he had learnt just 24 hours earlier.
Grateful Darin Ferguson and hero Andy Tomlin came face-to-face for the first time at The Farriers Arms, in Shilbottle, on Tuesday evening, following the dramatic incident earlier this year.
Northumbrian Water employee Andy, who is based in Alnwick, rushed to Darin’s aid after he had collapsed in Morpeth and was able to put into practice life-saving techniques that he had been taught by The Stephen Carey Fund the day before.
The namesake charity, which offers the training – including CPR – for free and has installed defibrillators around the county, was set up in memory of the Alnmouth footballer who collapsed and died while playing the game he loved in July 2012. The 21-year-old had an undiagnosed heart defect.
Both Darin, 44, and Andy, 53, admit that the incident in May would likely have had a catastrophic outcome if it was not for the crucial training offered by the Fund, which was the beneficiary of the Northumberland Gazette’s Jam Jar Army campaign in 2014.
After meeting his rescuer for the first time, father-of-one Darin, from Ashington, said: “I am so grateful to Andy because I was dead when he stopped to help me.
“Without Andy and the training he received from The Stephen Carey Fund, I would not be sitting here today. His actions saved my life, 100 per cent.
“I rang him up after I got out of hospital to thank him, but meeting him for the first time is incredibly emotional and I am actually a bit choked up.”
Andy, also from Ashington, was one of a number of Northumbrian Water employees to receive the training from the Fund on Friday, May 15. The charity’s chairman Scott McEwan led the session, which included emergency life support.
Little did he realise he would be putting these skills into practice much sooner than he could have imagined – the very next day.
And the father-of-four admits that if it wasn’t for the training, he wouldn’t have had the confidence to become a life-saver.
Recalling the incident, he said: “I was on my way home when I saw a couple of cars parked up and this lad lying by the roadside so I went over to assist.
“The people that were there didn’t really have a clue what they were doing. I checked Darin over and he didn’t have a pulse.
“I asked if anybody had called for an ambulance – which was one of the things I had learnt at the training – and nobody had!”
Andy added: “I started CPR and a few other people helped me. I was also looking for vital signs.”
He assisted paramedics when they arrived and a defibrillator was used on Darin. Thankfully, tragedy was averted and Andy admits that the training proved crucial.
He said: “If I hadn’t had the training the day before, I wouldn’t have been confident enough to do what I did. The training I received was vital because my first-aid skills were not up to date and I couldn’t have done it without the training I had from Scott.”
Car designer Darin was out cycling with his friend when the incident happened at Whorral Bank. The pair had been pedalling around Rothbury and Elsdon and had done about 55 miles.
He said: “I have no recollection of what happened. I have been trying to piece it back together.”
Darin was in a coma for two-and-a-half days and had to have three stents fitted. He is due to have two more shortly. He returned to work eight weeks after the incident and says he is feeling ‘pretty good’ and is cycling once again. But he admits that the dramatic day in May proves that cardiac arrest can happen to anyone at any time.
“I didn’t think it would happen to me. I was the fittest I had been and was cycling about 120 miles a week,” he told the Gazette.
On Tuesday, Darin and his family visited The Farriers Arms for first-aid training, including CPR, by Stephen Carey Fund representatives. It was here that he met Andy for the first time. Darin said he was delighted to not only see Andy, but to receive the training.
Following the session, he said: “I wanted to have the training after what happened to me. It was good to see how the whole procedure works. Hopefully my family and I will never need to use it, but it is important that we know how to use it.”
Scott, 24, said the incident proves the value of The Stephen Carey Fund and thanked everybody who has supported it. In July, the charity installed its 50th defibrillator, just days before the third anniversary of Stephen’s death. The Fund has installed further defibrillators and has, since its formation, given the important first-aid training to thousands of people.
For information and to contact the Fund about training or defibrillators, visit thestephencareyfund.co.uk