By Sarah Collard
Tony Charlton (l) and Dr Paul Bailey had an emotional reunion after 21 years. (ABC News: Sarah Collard)
Tony Charlton clearly remembers the day he technically died nine times.
The 70-year-old grandfather was rushed to a Perth hospital 21 years ago after suffering an acute cardiac arrest. His heart stopped nine times before it was stabilised by emergency attending doctor Paul Bailey.
“I was totally calm. It’s completely out of your hands if anything is going to happen and you’re going to die in the end,” he recalled.
“There’s nothing you can do anyway so … it’s about letting the doctors and nurses do their job.”
Each year thousands of Australians die from sudden cardiac arrest, and Mr Charlton knows he is one of the lucky ones.
‘I have never had a patient survive similarly’
Twenty-one years after the fateful day on the operating table, he decided to look up Dr Bailey and the pair had an emotional reunion.
“What do you say to a doctor who’s saved your life?” Mr Charlton said.
“My grandchildren wouldn’t have known me at all if I hadn’t made it. Everything is down to Dr Bailey.”
Dr Bailey said Mr Charlton defied the odds.
“It’s very unusual to survive after nine different episodes all in one go,” he said.
“I have never had a patient survive similarly, before or subsequently. He’s incredibly lucky.”
Tony Charlton with one of his grandchildren just before he suffered multiple cardiac arrests. (Supplied: Tony Charlton)
‘High quality’ bystanders save lives
Dr Bailey said others could learn from Mr Charlton’s amazing fortune, which reinforced the critical importance of basic first-aid training.
“We know that high-quality CPR performed by bystanders — those at the scene of a cardiac arrest — more than double patients’ survival,” he said.
Sarah Fordham says people should not be afraid to step in during an emergency. (ABC News: Sarah Collard)
Heart Foundation WA CEO Sarah Fordham said the chances of survival rose dramatically if CPR was performed.
“When someone steps in and provides CPR the chance of survival doubles, and if someone also has access to a defibrillator the survival rate increases even more,” Ms Fordham said.
“You don’t have to be trained. Anyone can respond, we want people to not be afraid — call triple-zero and they’ll talk you through what you need to do.”
Today is global Restart A Heart Day which raises awareness on the signs and symptoms of cardiac arrest and first aid.