Super-fit Shaun, 19, saved by defibrillator

Shaun in hospital with an Edinburgh Uni football top signed by members of the club. Picture: Contributed
Shaun in hospital with an Edinburgh Uni football top signed by members of the club. Picture: Contributed
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A TEENAGE sports fanatic has told how he almost died when he collapsed while cycling through Edinburgh.

Shaun Hodgson’s life was saved when a passing policewoman performed CPR on him until medics arrived and used a defibrillator.

Pc Freya Cowan. Picture: contributed

Pc Freya Cowan. Picture: contributed

The sporty 19-year-old – who studies PE at Edinburgh ­University – had been cycling to Peffermill Playing Fields to represent the university football team when he felt dizzy and dismounted to catch his breath on St John’s Hill at The ­Pleasance.

For Shaun, the rest is a blur.

Wobbly and weak, his shaky demeanour caught the eye of a concerned passers-by who managed to break the ­teenager’s fall as he dropped to the ground. He stopped breathing instantly and his face turned blue.

Off-duty police officer Freya Cowan had been jogging when she spotted the prostrate youngster surrounded by people. His pulse had flatlined and she began chest compressions until paramedics arrived to use a defibrillator to shock his body back to life.

“I don’t remember much of what happened but I must have known something was wrong as I got off my bike,” said Shaun. “The next thing I knew I was in hospital.

“I am told Pc Cowan did CPR on me while they were waiting for paramedics and they used the defibrillator on me in the ambulance.”

After being in a medically-induced coma for two days, Shaun woke up at the Royal Infirmary. He said: “I was really confused and on so much medication that I kept drifting off to sleep. I think I knew something serious had happened as my sister was there and she lives in Manchester.

“Apparently I asked my dad the Liverpool score about 20 times.”

Shaun spent ten days in hospital while doctors ran tests to try to diagnose what was behind the cardiac arrest. With no definitive cause traced, he was fitted with an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD), which monitors his heart rate.

The matchbox-sized device is implanted below the collar bone and delivers small shocks whenever the heart rhythms become irregular.

After he left the hospital, Shaun and his parents drove to St Leonard’s Police Station to say thank you, and found a grinning Pc Cowan.

“It was all a bit surreal saying ‘Thanks for saving my life’ to someone you have never met before,” said Shaun. “I think it was more ­emotional for my mum and dad in a way because they had had to deal with everything while I was unconscious, fearing the worst.”

Shaun said he is now considering taking first aid modules as part of his degree following his own traumatic experience.

“It is amazing really as if it wasn’t for Freya it is very, very likely I would have died,” he said. “I would like to be able to do something like that in the future.”

Despite his brush with death, the aspiring PE teacher was back on the football pitch just four weeks later. Shaun also missed only five weeks of term and has since returned to university and passed his exams with flying colours.

Shaun, originally from Inverness, said: “I’ve been for a check-up since and [the doctors] were happy with everything.”

His father, history teacher David, 52, remembers the “surreal” moment the telephone rang and a doctor explained how his athletic son’s heart had stopped.

“I just thought it must be something to do with football as he had gone back to university early to play in a match.” Shaun’s family scrambled to be at his bedside – including 26-year-old sister Kirstien who travelled from Manchester

“We were just so relieved when he came round. The Royal Infirmary was absolutely excellent with him.” Meeting PC Cowan was an emotional experience for Shaun’s parents. David’s voice trembles and tails off when he says: “We can’t say how grateful we are to her. If it wasn’t for her. . . it just doesn’t bear thinking about.”

He adds: “Looking at him now you wouldn’t think anything like this had happened to him.”

Shaun’s story demonstrates the life-saving potential of the defibrillator and his mum Alison Martin-Hodgson praised the Evening News’s Shockingly Easy campaign.

She said: “There was no defibrillator on-site when Shaun collapsed so we are 100 per cent behind the campaign to have a defibrillator in these locations.”

The Evening News has teamed up with the family of 13-year-old Jamie Skinner, who collapsed and died while playing football, to ensure the devices are installed across all sports centres in the Lothians.

Every week in the UK around 12 people under the age of 35 die suddenly from a previously undiagnosed heart condition, according to the charity Cardiac Risk in the Young (CRY).

Eighty per cent of these deaths occur with no prior symptoms. Shaun’s family have nominated Pc Cowan for a prestigious honour from the Royal Humane Society for her actions. Dick Wilkinson, secretary of the society, praised Pc Cowan when he announced she would receive the resuscitation certificate. He said: “Pc Cowan’s knowledge of CPR proved vital in saving this young man’s life, and averting tragedy. “Though she was off duty, she demonstrated how a good police officer is never really off duty, and her first-aid skills delivered him safely into the hands of experts.”

Cardiac arrest risk common

SHOCKING statistics show the risk of cardiac arrest is far more common than people think.

500,000 people in the UK have the genes that can cause conditions related to sudden cardiac death. For 80 per cent of people with a hidden heart condition, the first symptom they experience is cardiac arrest.

The chance of surviving a cardiac arrest drops by ten to 20 per cent for every minute that passes without CPR or defibrillation being administered. Just five per cent of people who have a cardiac arrest in the community survive. More than 1500 Scots died in the community in 2013 after suffering a cardiac arrest.

It is estimated that there are around 60,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests in the UK each year.

When bystanders provide immediate CPR and the first shock is delivered within three to five minutes, survival rates from a sudden cardiac arrest are as high as 48 to 74 per cent.