Hospital chaplain who suffered cardiac arrest thanks colleagues for saving his life

A Belfast hospital chaplain who suffered a cardiac arrest while playing football has paid tribute to colleagues who administered first aid and gave him a second chance at life.

Rev Derek Johnston, a chaplain at the Royal Hospitals and lead chaplain for the Belfast Trust, was playing football with colleagues on August 9 this year when he suddenly collapsed.

Dr Paul Hamilton, Rev Derek Johnston and Philip Frizzell pictured at the Royal Victoria Hospital.

Dr Paul Hamilton, Rev Derek Johnston and Philip Frizzell pictured at the Royal Victoria Hospital.

The 53-year-old’s team mates acted quickly when they realised he had stopped breathing.

Paul Hamilton, a doctor, and Philip Frizzell, a radiographer, immediately began chest compressions.

The ambulance arrived minutes later and defibrillated him twice before rushing him to the Royal Victoria Hospital.

Just over an hour later Derek had a stent fitted and was a patient in one of the wards he serves as chaplain before being moved to the Ulster Hospital the following day.

The chaplain is here to tell his remarkable story thanks to the quick actions of the colleagues who saved his life.

Paying tribute to Dr Hamilton and Mr Frizzell, Rev Johnston said: “I owe my life to them because Paul and Phil started CPR quickly and kept my heart pumping until the ambulance arrived and the paramedics defibrillated me.

“Parts of that evening are still a bit vague, but numerous medical and nursing people have told me I am very blessed to be alive.”

He continued: “One consultant told me I am one of the few people to survive such an incident without any major brain damage. Those first three minutes after my cardiac arrest were critical in saving my life. The swift actions of my colleagues, Paul and Phil, in starting CPR saved my life and minimised damage. Literally, the right people, with the right knowledge, in the right place at the right time. I am very thankful to them and to God.”

Rev Johnston is now back at work and recently took part in a British Heart Foundation Northern Ireland (BHF NI) Heart Start life-saving skills training course.

Backing the charity’s Nation of Lifesavers campaign, he added: “I now appreciate how important it is to know CPR and be able to act fast. I did the course with my wife, Linda, so that if the worst happens to someone else we can do our best to help save their life.”

Find out more about the Nation of Lifesavers campaign by logging on to bhf.org.uk/cpr