Posted: Thu 28th Mar 2024

Runner’s life saved by health board PA after suffering cardiac arrest in St Asaph

North Wales news and information

A health board PA’s quick thinking helped a runner suffering a cardiac arrest survive his ordeal.

Holly Jones left work at Betsi Cadwaladr’s headquarters in St Asaph, on Wednesday March 6, and was driving home after a nail salon appointment when she spotted a man looking distressed at the side of the road.

She saw Matt Betts who appeared to be being sick opposite Ysgol Glan Clwyd in the city.

Having shouted across to him on two occasions, with no response, she realised the amateur runner with St Asaph City Striders was struggling.

She parked up quickly, grabbed her mobile phone and headed across to see if she could assist him.

Holly said: “I got close and asked him if he needed help. I got no response. His skin was a purple colour, and he was obviously in trouble. I realised it was serious and called 999 straight away.”

As Holly made the call, Matt’s wife Paula, also a member of the running club, made her way back with a couple of other runners to find her husband struggling.

She said: “Matt had been behind us. When I looked back, I saw Holly running towards him, so that alerted me, and I ran to them.

“When I got there, he wasn’t breathing and had no pulse. His face was literally purple and looked terrible.”

Holly continued speaking to the emergency operator as club members with medical experience started CPR on Matt.

Holly said: “I’ve never really been in a situation like that before and I just thought I need to ring 999 and get help.

“I felt silly shouting orders to people, but I was just repeating what I was being told by the operator.

“It was a really serious situation and I had to look to the side and compose myself a couple times. I thought I was going to cry.”

While CPR continued, a member of the club rushed to fetch a defibrillator from the nearby sports centre in the school.

Holly said: “It was like the best of humanity. There were ex-medical staff taking turns giving him compressions.

“Another driver pulled over to see if he could help. It was one of the most selfless things I’ve ever witnessed because he just came over, got on his knees and started giving Matt compressions too.”

When the defibrillator arrived, Holly relayed instructions from the operator before an emergency ambulance showed up, within six minutes of her call.

Matt, who is 62 years old, came round after his fifth jolt from the defibrillator and was taken straight to Glan Clwyd Hospital.

Having identified a blocked artery, a stent was fitted by the cardiology team and Matt was home by Saturday of the same week.

Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board CEO, Carol Shillabeer, said: “I have said before how our staff go above and beyond to help the public of North Wales and keep them safe.

“Holly’s actions, especially for someone who doesn’t work in a clinical role, reinforces that image of a caring and selfless workforce, dedicated to the wellbeing of others.

“Her quick thinking demonstrates the benefit of having some first aid training to fall back on if we encounter situations where someone is having a medical emergency.

“I also want to thank those members of Mr Bett’s running club, and the other driver who stopped to help, for giving him life-saving CPR until the ambulance crew arrived.”

Paula, who is a deputy general manager for surgery at Glan Clwyd Hospital, was full of praise for Holly’s quick thinking.

She said: “Without Holly and without our running group, Matt wouldn’t be here.

“The cardiologist said it would have been a completely different picture if we had been anywhere else, without the running club around, without the defibrillator and without Holly being there.

“She was cool, calm and collected throughout. She guided everybody through it. We owe our running club and Holly his life.

“Thank God she stopped. It was only her stopping that alerted me to something being wrong.”

Matt is now on the road to recovery, back at home in Pensarn and under the watchful eye of Paula.

Doctors have told him he will eventually be able to go back running, if he sticks with his cardiac rehabilitation plan.

Paula said: “Matt went into hospital on Wednesday and he was home by Saturday. The whole of the care we had and the whole situation was a miracle.

“The ambulance crew were fabulous and everyone at Glan Clwyd Hospital were brilliant. He had the best care.”

Holly visited the couple exactly a week after the incident, receiving a thank you card and a bracelet as a token of their appreciation.

She said: “I saw Matt and didn’t think it was the same person. He looked really well – probably a lot healthier than prior to this happening.”

Holly, who completed first aid training around 10 years ago, and both Matt and Paula made a plea for people to undergo CPR training.

Their running club in St Asaph and their former running mates in Margate have agreed to put CPR sessions on, along with Park Run Prestatyn.

Paula said: “It’s so surreal how your life can change, literally in a heartbeat. I would say everyone should learn CPR and first aid.

“If Matt’s story can inspire one person to save a life then we will be happy.”

Matt added: “I wouldn’t be talking to you now if everyone hadn’t acted so quickly. Everyone just did it together and I’m so grateful.”



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