A Sheffield policeman has been reunited with the ‘brilliant’ gym staff who saved his life after he went into cardiac arrest.
Nick Johnson, from Frecheville, collapsed beside a cross trainer at Ponds Forge International Sports Centre and stopped breathing earlier this month.
Employees at the leisure centre rushed to his aid, giving him CPR and shocking him four times with a defibrillator before his heart sparked back into life and he regained consciousness.
The 44-year-old father-of-one, who works for South Yorkshire Police’s safeguarding adults team in Snig Hill, hugged them as he returned to the scene of his near-death experience.
“There’s nothing I can say which will properly express my gratitude. If it wasn’t for you I wouldn’t be here today,” he told them.
“Some people take what you guys do for granted but it’s brilliant what you did for me that day.”
Nick, who has made a good recovery and hopes to return to work early next year, also thanked paramedics and the staff at the Northern General Hospital, where he underwent heart surgery before being discharged five days later.
The emotional reunion at Ponds Forge was in stark contrast to the dramatic rescue operation on December 7, when Nick, who was ‘completely out of it’, struggled and shouted at the team trying to save him.
He remembers nothing of those moments, and was mortified to hear of his behaviour, which is a million miles from his usual friendly, mild-mannered demeanour.
But those moments are forever etched on the minds of his saviours, who spoke of their huge relief at seeing him walk through the doors again.
Fitness advisor Denton Wilson, who was the first to reach Nick and helped place him in the recovery position, said ‘we did a lot of praying’ that day.
Leisure assistant Joy Cunnigham, who gave Nick mouth-to-mouth, said seeing him again had made a ‘huge difference’, while fellow leisure assistant Josh Townsend, who applied the shocks, told how it had been a team effort that day.
Remarkably, just days after Nick’s rescue, teenage lifeguard Hayden Liggins helped save a toddler who had been pulled unconscious from the centre’s swimming pool – as The Star reported at the time.
Duty manager Stephen Ward, who was present on both days and called the ambulance for Nick, told how those were the first occasions in his 18 months working there that his colleagues’ life-saving skills had been called upon.
He said he was incredibly proud of the team’s actions but hoped it would be a long while before there is any more life-or-death drama on his watch.
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