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Skippers Beat Odds And Save Heart Attack Victim

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Coromandel, Jan 20 NZPA - A 30-year-old Auckland casino dealer owes his astonishing recovery from a heart attack to the determination of two Whitianga cruise boat skippers.

Darryl Syme and Steve Miller, with help from two other men, carried out CPR on the man for about 45 minutes after he suffered a heart attack while snorkelling off Hahei, on the Coromandel Peninsula, this month.

Tairua-Pauanui St John team leader Steve Morgan says the man, who did not wish to be named, was "the luckiest guy in the world".

"The survival rate from resuscitation is about four percent and that depends on having a shock delivered within 10 minutes," he said.

"To survive after this long, there needs to be monumentally good CPR and the guy needs to be lucky. The two men who did CPR did everything absolutely book-perfect and we were able to retrieve him."

The man's wife says the men just wouldn't give up.

"I was very worried that I lose him any minute. Everyone was tired and I worried they might quit. But they never give up. They just think he could do it."

The couple were on Mr Syme's Cathedral Cove Scenic Cruises boat with three other people on January 9. The boat was anchored inside Mahurangi Island along with Steve Miller's Cave Cruzer, while people snorkelled.

The man had been in the water about 15 minutes when his wife started screaming. He was lying on his back and something clearly was wrong.

Mr Syme dived in and with help from his granddaughter on the boat and Pete Wills, a Cave Cruzer assistant who was in the water, got the lifeless man back on board. Mr Wills started chest compressions and Mr Syme started breathing.

Mr Miller, who had called 111, took over compressions, recalling from a first-aid refresher in August that the chest has to be well compressed to be effective.

A Thames kayaker also joined the resuscitation attempt and the men took the compression in turns, as Mr Symes kept breathing air into the man's lungs.

After about 10 minutes, they placed him in the recovery position, expecting him to cough up sea water. But nothing happened, so they resumed resuscitation.

"We thought he'd drowned, so we turned him about three times, expecting water to come out, but nothing happened," says Mr Symes.

After about 45 minutes, Tairua-Pauanui Coastguard's Lockwood Rescue Boat and then the Westpac Auckland Rescue Helicopter arrived.

The medic from the Coastguard boarded the boat with a defibrillator and the man's heart restarted at the first shock. He was then transferred to Hahei beach and flown to Auckland Hospital.

Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust spokesman Herby Barnes says a new CPR regime, which places more emphasis on effective chest compression, is seeing better outcomes.

The man's wife said her husband was now a lot better but faces a long recovery. The Taiwanese man has been in New Zealand for about 17 years, while his wife arrived from Beijing about 10 years ago.

"We want to thank them all. We really appreciate they saved him and did a very, very good job," she said.

Mr Syme and Mr Miller said that despite it being their first real-life resuscitation for both of them, they did what they had to.

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