Lucky to be alive, man whose heart stopped and brain was starved of oxygen

Date: Monday 11th June 2018
Mark Wilson and Sarah Morley are hoping to raise awareness of his rare medical condition.
Mark Wilson and Sarah Morley are hoping to raise awareness of his rare medical condition.

A MAN with a rare medical condition is lucky to be alive after he collapsed at home when his heart stopped beating and his brain was starved of oxygen.

Now, 36-year-old Mark Wilson and his partner Sarah Morley, aged 35, of Park View, Culgaith, want to raise awareness of the importance of getting tested if people experience any symptoms of the condition.

The former HGV driver said he had been feeling unwell on Sunday, 25th February, and felt lethargic and cold. He also experienced chest pains which he described as being “worse than indigestion”.

He said he had taken his spaniel dog, Max, for a walk and returned home around 7pm. “I was freezing cold and stood in front of the log burner,” he added. “The next I remember was waking up in Carlisle hospital three days later.”

Luckily, Sarah, an analytical chemist with Innovia Films, Wigton, was trained in first aid and immediately started administering CPR while trying to get help. “There were a couple of instances where I didn’t think I was making a difference and after 20 minutes I was still on my own,” she said.

However, first responders were on the scene, followed by paramedics and Dr Theo Weston, from Penrith’s BEEP Fund, 35 to 40 minutes after the first emergency call.

While he was being treated at the scene Mark’s heart “flatlined” at least three times and he required five defibrillator shots.

Sarah said Mark’s heart was “racing” at 270 beats per minute. He was later diagnosed with the condition Wolff-Parkinson-White (WPW) syndrome, which increases the electrical activity of the heart. He was placed into an induced coma before being taken by ambulance to Carlisle’s Cumberland Infirmary.

On 6th March he was transferred to Newcastle, where he underwent an operation to correct the heart condition, and was finally discharged from Carlisle hospital on 16th March.

Sarah said that when he left hospital she was told by doctors that 45 per cent of Mark’s heart was “jelly like”, but they had been told there was a chance it could recover.

Mark said that because his brain had been starved of oxygen while his heart had stopped, he was experiencing problems with memory loss and added that it was not known how much would return.

He no longer has a driving licence on medical grounds, but said it could have been a lot worse if he had been driving at the time and might have injured or killed others.

Sarah said if the condition was correctly diagnosed the operation to correct it was a straightforward procedure. It had been more complicated after Mark suffered his cardiac arrest.

She said that doctors thought he had had WPW all his life. “This is a simple outpatient operation to fix if detected before you get to the point Mark did,” she said. “What shocked me were statistics I saw and heard when we were in hospital. More people are likely to call an ambulance for a sprained ankle than for chest pains.

“I would really like to promote how important it is to get any sort of heartbeat issues checked early to prevent people from ending up in the situation Mark did.”

Mark’s family are hoping to organise a number of fundraising events to support the organisations which helped him in his hour of need. The first has been confirmed for 16th September at Shap Wells Hotel in aid of Cumberland Infirmary’s intensive care unit and the BEEP Fund.