‘We’re family now’: Off-duty nurse, doctor save 79yo’s life
DIRK Simons is counting his blessings and thanking his mates after their beach walk nearly ended in tragedy.
He suffered a severe heart attack with a low chance of survival, but it just so happened a defibrillator, nurse and doctor were nearby.
The Blackmans Bay local spends most of his morning beach walks alone, occasionally stopping to chat to regular strollers Peter Blackburn and Les Gore as he did at 7am on October 17.
"Les and I often see him and say hello," Mr Blackburn said.
"We were just chatting to him and then suddenly he collapsed half-way through a sentence into Les' arms."
Dirk Simons had a major blockage in his artery.
The odds were against him with only 10 per cent of Australians surviving cardiac arrests outside of hospital.
"I rang triple-0, Les gave his car keys to a younger man who ran down and brought his car back because Les has a defibrillator in his car," he said.
Mr Gore had bought the defibrillator after a man at one of his motor home holidays at Bruny Island had passed away from a heart attack.
"I always carry it in my car here with me on the walking track," he said.
As Mr Gore was setting up the device, he was approached by a woman.
"She said 'I'm a doctor'," Mr Gore said.
"I said 'would you mind hooking this up?' And she did."
After using the defibrillator, Mr Gore began performing CPR - just as St Johns hospital operating theatre nurse Tanja Andrews walked around the corner with her dog.
"I just saw someone on the ground and ran over," she said.
Ms Andrews put her years of CPR training, for which she had only recently undertaken a refresher course, into practise for the first time as a crowd was gathering at Blackmans Bay Beach.
"It was really emotional," Ms Andrews said.
"I hadn't told work about it 'til this morning and I got emotional telling them.
"If he hadn't have survived I'm not sure how well I would have coped."
Three ambulances soon arrived to take Mr Gore to the Royal Hobart Hospital, while Mr Blackburn arranged for Mr Simons' wife, who was unwell with Alzheimer's and required constant care, to be professionally looked after while Mr Simons spent the week recovering in hospital.
Mr Simons said the chain of events - from having his heart attack in the presence of his mates to being aided by a nurse and doctor and defibrillator - was a "total miracle".
He has caught up with Ms Andrews, Mr Blackburn and Mr Gore regularly since the event and couldn't thank them enough.
"It's a miracle all the way through," he said.
"That I'm still alive is unbelievable and that I've got these friends here - we're family now, absolutely."
When the team at St Johns heard about the event, Mr Gore said they repackaged his defibrillator for free.
Mr Gore coincidentally had to ring an ambulance for himself some weeks after Mr Simons' heart attack, receiving a pacemaker as a result.
"Now we can't use the defib on him," Mr Blackburn said.
Originally published as 'We're family now': Off-duty nurse, doctor save 79yo's life