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.”
‘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.
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-0 and they’ll talk you through what you need to do.”
Tuesday is global Restart A Heart Day, which raises awareness on the signs and symptoms of cardiac arrest and first aid.