Neighbour saves life of Dad who had cardiac arrest in front of his children
A dad who suffered cardiac arrest in front of his family has revealed how his life was saved by his quick-thinking neighbour delivering CPR after his children shouted: “Daddy’s dead”.
Andrew Mace, 44, from Otford Kent, collapsed during a Jubilee street party but survived against the odds thanks to a medical student stepping in to give him life-saving CPR.
The father-of-three, who works in technology and lives with his wife Sophie, 36, and children Annabelle, 10, Luke, seven, and Alice, two, was diagnosed with Fabry disease, an enzyme deficiency, aged 26.
He had a pacemaker fitted in 2009 and a kidney transplant in 2018.
But in June 2022 during a Jubilee neighbourhood party with his family he collapsed, suffering a devastating cardiac arrest.
Thankfully, Alex Duncan, 21, a medical student at Cambridge University, was also in attendance and leapt into action, remembering CPR from a training day she'd attended three years previously.
Paramedics arrived within 15 minutes and thanks to Duncan's efforts, they were able to resuscitate Mace before he was airlifted to hospital.
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The family credit Duncan with saving Andrew’s life and are now working with the British Heart Foundation to urge the public to take a quick 15-minute CPR course.
“We’re so thankful for Alex,” Mace explains. “I’m proof that CPR works, it can bring someone back to their family. I think my wife thought I wasn’t coming back.”
When he was originally diagnosed with Fabry disease, Mace was surprised at the impact the condition would have on his life – including needing to have a pacemaker fitted in June 2009.
Fabry disease is an inherited condition that affects one in 40,000 men. It is an enzyme deficiency that means the person affected is not able to break down fats, which then become deposited in their blood vessels and tissue.
“I’d been seeing a renal consultant due to having high protein in my urine,” Mace says of the period leading up to his diagnosis.
“I went to hospital to be tested for Fabry and they confirmed it."
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Mace says doctors also picked up some sinus node damage on his heart, which meant his heart wasn’t beating consistently and would pause for around seven seconds while he slept.
“That’s why I had a pacemaker fitted,” he explains.
With the condition being genetic, two of Mace’s children are also closely monitored at Great Ormond Street Hospital.
“I have quite an aggressive strain which Annabelle and Alice have inherited from me,” he explains.
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In a further complication, Mace was told he would need to have a kidney transplant a month after the couple's daughter, Lexi, died from sepsis at just two days old.
“After a routine blood test, I was told that my kidney function had deteriorated a lot and I’d have to start considering the transplant route," Mace continues.
“My kidney transplant was on 15th December 2018, which would have been her first birthday. We’re convinced that she was looking after her daddy.”
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Following their tragic loss, the family focused on raising money for Great Ormond Street Hospital in Lexi’s name.
But in June 2022, Mace collapsed during a game of football at the party to celebrate the Jubilee.
“About two minutes in I suddenly felt very dizzy so I went to sit down, but apparently collapsed inside the goal net," he explains.
“Luckily, Alex had come back for the party after an exam that morning.
“Other neighbours called 999 and asked if there was a defibrillator nearby. There was one at the train station about 50 metres from where we live so they went to get it.
“The next thing I remember is waking up and seeing another neighbour, who was also helping perform CPR, looking at me upside down.
“The neighbours had moved the children inside. But I gave them a kiss before I was taken into the air ambulance.”
Airlifted to King’s College Hospital in London, Mace was fitted with an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD), a device that sends an electric shock to the heart if it senses the heart beating at a dangerous or abnormal rate.
“My wife later explained what had happened,” Mace recalls. “I was so grateful for Alex and the other neighbours.
“I was in hospital for five days and then transferred to Barts to have my internal defib fitted.
“My Fabry consultant has recommended I look at medical retirement because of the potential onset of everything else now I have had a cardiac arrest on top of the kidney transplant.”
According to the British Heart Foundation, there are more than 30,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests in the UK each year, but less than one in 10 people survive, often because those around them do not have the skills or confidence to perform CPR.
Mace and Duncan are now working with the British Heart Foundation to promote its new tool RevivR, which teaches CPR in 15 minutes.
“I wouldn’t be here if we didn’t have people trained in CPR,” Mace says.
“I can vouch for how crucial it is – you could help save a life and bring someone’s loved one back.”
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Duncan agrees that learning CPR is the best skill she has acquired.
“I was teaching a class so had to do first aid," she says. "I remember thinking at the time that it was a bit tedious, and that there is no way I was going to need it,” she continues.
“It’s crazy to think that actually it was so important and I took it for granted."
Recalling the incident at the party, Duncan says she heard a scream before seeing two of Mace's children running down the street saying "daddy's dead".
“I just started running," she continues. "I saw that he was blue and lifeless, so I started CPR. I could see his kids crying and I just thought I have to do something right now.
“It’s why I wanted to be a doctor in the first place, to help people.”
For further information visit the British Heart Foundation or call their helpline 0300 330 3311.
Additional reporting PA.