Man almost died after heart stopped twice during first asthma attack he ever had

·Lifestyle Writer, Yahoo Life UK
·8 min read
Jamie Bell recovering from the asthma attack - July 2021 (L) & with wife Steph (R).  A dad nearly died after his heart stopped twice during the first asthma attack he ever had.  See SWNS story SWLSasthma.  Jamie Bell, 36, was put in an induced coma following the life-threatening attack on July 2, 2021.  Dad-of-one Jamie, whose wife Steph, 29, is expecting their second child, had his sternum and a couple of ribs broken during the process of being given CPR but says he feels lucky to be here.  The couple were staying with Steph's parents in Bath, Somerset, to celebrate the birthday of their son Felix, who had just turned one. (SWNS)
Husband and father Jamie Bell nearly lost his life after having an unexpected asthma attack. (SWNS)

A man nearly died after his heart stopped twice during the first ever asthma attack he'd ever experienced.

Jamie Bell, 36, was put in an induced coma following the incident last year on July 2, 2021.

The dad, who has one child and another on the way with wife Steph, suffered a broken sternum bone and a couple of ribs when given CPR to help save his life.

But despite the ordeal, he says he feels lucky to be here, after embracing the "long road to recovery".

The couple were staying with Steph's parents in Bath at the time, to celebrate their son's first birthday.

Of course, neither of them predicted what was to come.

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Jamie Bell with wife Steph & son Felix.  A dad nearly died after his heart stopped twice during the first asthma attack he ever had.  See SWNS story SWLSasthma.  Jamie Bell, 36, was put in an induced coma following the life-threatening attack on July 2, 2021.  Dad-of-one Jamie, whose wife Steph, 29, is expecting their second child, had his sternum and a couple of ribs broken during the process of being given CPR but says he feels lucky to be here.  The couple were staying with Steph's parents in Bath, Somerset, to celebrate the birthday of their son Felix, who had just turned one.
Jamie Bell with wife Steph and son Felix. (SWNS)

Jamie, a chartered building surveyor, suffers from hayfever, though to trigger the asthma attack. While he'd never had one before, he was using two Ventolin inhalers a month to help manage what he thought was his just a 'mild' form of asthma.

But one night he woke up struggling to breathe, leading Steph to dial 999. The couple believe that Jamie's attempt to go outside for some fresh air was what resulted in two cardiac arrests.

Steph recalls Jamie saying 'help me' as he slipped out of consciousness, with him being rushed off to the Royal United Hospital in Bath in an ambulance.

As a last resort, medics put him into an induced coma, but feared his heart stopping may have caused brain damage.

"We went down to see Steph's parents and drove down after our son's first birthday," say Jamie, who thought the visit would be a happy occasion.

"It is always bad at that time of year [his asthma], I have always thought it was because of hay fever.

"Usually I would expect to get through it but it was uncomfortable.

"I'd never had an asthma attack before."

The day before the attack, he wasn't feeling very well, but didn't take any notice of his symptoms.

Read more: How to spot if a cough is coronavirus or hay fever

Jamie Bell recovering from the asthma attack - July 2021.  A dad nearly died after his heart stopped twice during the first asthma attack he ever had.  See SWNS story SWLSasthma.  Jamie Bell, 36, was put in an induced coma following the life-threatening attack on July 2, 2021.  Dad-of-one Jamie, whose wife Steph, 29, is expecting their second child, had his sternum and a couple of ribs broken during the process of being given CPR but says he feels lucky to be here.  The couple were staying with Steph's parents in Bath, Somerset, to celebrate the birthday of their son Felix, who had just turned one.
Jamie Bell recovering from the asthma attack, July 2021. (SWNS)

Recalling the traumatic experience, he says, "My heart stopped at the point where the paramedics arrived.

"My sternum was fractured and a couple of ribs were broken from effective CPR.

"It was a crazy experience."

Going into cardiac arrest twice, his heart stopped for two minutes after being injected with adrenaline.

"They were there within five minutes, if it had been another 30 seconds it would probably have been lights out," he adds.

The next thing he knew, he woke up with tubes in his nose.

"Steph was asking me when her birthday was because they said my memory might be impacted by cardiac arrest," he says, before adding, clearly still with his sense of humour, "I gave her a false date just to wind her up."

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While Jamie was used to using an inhaler after exercise like going for a run or playing football, he says he would have laughed if someone told him what was going to happen.

But what did happen not only affected him, but his wife too. Steph, who works as a maths tutor, had to have counselling for post traumatic stress disorder after witnessing the first stages of his attack.

However, she stood by his side, ensuring he was able to watch the EURO 2020s in ICU and chatting away to him endlessly to keep him company.

Jamie, who lives in Gullane, East Lothian in Scotland, now makes sure he has check ups at a hospital rather than with a GP. He also believes his asthma was 'mismanaged' and admits he didn't take it very seriously before.

"It's been quite a long road to recovery but my breathing is better than it ever has been for 20 years," he says, seeing the positive side of things.

"I'm out running and playing football without using an inhaler.

"If you'd told me I'd suffer my first asthma attack and end up in a coma, I would have laughed at you.

"It just seemed ridiculous."

Jamie Bell and son Felix.  A dad nearly died after his heart stopped twice during the first asthma attack he ever had.  See SWNS story SWLSasthma.  Jamie Bell, 36, was put in an induced coma following the life-threatening attack on July 2, 2021.  Dad-of-one Jamie, whose wife Steph, 29, is expecting their second child, had his sternum and a couple of ribs broken during the process of being given CPR but says he feels lucky to be here.  The couple were staying with Steph's parents in Bath, Somerset, to celebrate the birthday of their son Felix, who had just turned one.
Jamie Bell, pictured with son Felix, believes there needs to be more education on asthma to help others. (SWNS)

He now uses an inhaler with steroids, (used to reduce symptoms and prevent further attacks, in contrast to just being an immediate rescue reliever) and believes far more education is needed on how to manage asthma beyond just relieving the symptoms of it.

Steph, who wasn't allowed to ride with her husband in the ambulance due to restrictions from the COVID-19 pandemic, was warned by medics that hooking him up to a ventilator, which he needed, could be fatal.

But despite being difficult at the time, she now praises the professionals for not giving her any false hope at the time.

"When he came round from the coma he still managed to have a bit of his humour," describes Steph affectionately.

"He came out five days later with a fractured sternum and broken ribs which was the best possible outcome. It was such a horrible time."

But, she adds, the medics "were all so professional and saved Jamie's life".

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After being induced in a coma for 24 hours, Jamie spent another five days in hospital, before committing to healing, readjusting the way he manages his asthma, and being grateful for still being here.

Unfortunately, asthma attacks do kill three people in the UK each day, but many of these deaths could be avoided. Inspired to help prevent others from going through a similar experience to them, the couple have raised nearly £15,000 for Asthma Lung UK.

Knowing the signs and symptoms of asthma, and what to do if an attack happens to you or someone else, can help save a life.

Watch: Allergies and asthma are linked to heart disease, according to new study

Asthma signs and symptoms

Most people with asthma experiences times whether their breathing becomes more difficult, or times when it might ease slightly.

That said, people with severe asthma may have breathing problems most of the time.

The most common symptoms of asthma, according to the NHS, are:

  • wheezing (a whistling sound when breathing)

  • breathlessness

  • a tight chest – it may feel like a band is tightening around it

  • coughing

While many things can cause these common symptoms, they're more likely to be caused by asthma, the health service explains, if they:

  • happen often and keep coming back

  • are worse at night and early in the morning

  • seem to happen in response to an asthma trigger like exercise or an allergy (such as to pollen or animal fur)

Read more: Asthma deaths at '18 year high' – but what's causing the rise?

Asthma attacks

If asthma gets worse for a short period of time, this is known as an asthma attack, which can happen suddenly, or more gradually over a few days.

Severe symptoms of an asthma attack include:

  • wheezing, coughing and chest tightness becoming severe and constant

  • being too breathless to eat, speak or sleep

  • breathing faster

  • a fast heartbeat

  • drowsiness, confusion, exhaustion or dizziness

  • blue lips or fingers

  • fainting

If you think you are having an asthma attack, the NHS says you should:

  1. Sit up straight – try to keep calm

  2. Take one puff of your reliever inhaler (usually blue) every 30 to 60 seconds up to 10 puffs

  3. If you feel worse at any point, or you do not feel better after 10 puffs, call 999 for an ambulance

  4. If the ambulance has not arrived after 10 minutes and your symptoms are not improving, repeat step 2

  5. If your symptoms are no better after repeating step 2, and the ambulance has still not arrived, contact 999 again immediately

If possible, take the details of your medicines (or asthma 'action plan') with you to hospital.

If your symptoms improve and you don't need to call 999, you should get an urgent same-day appointment to see a GP or asthma nurse.

(This advice is not for people on treatment plans SMART or MART, so consult a professional on what to do if this happens to you.)

See a GP if you think you (or your child) may have asthma, or you have asthma and are finding it hard to control.

For more information, see the NHS website on asthma attacks.

For support on anything from how to manage your condition, to going on holiday, you can call Asthma + Lung UK's helpline on 0300 222 5800 9am-5pm, Monday to Friday, or email helpline@asthmaandlung.org.uk.

Additional reporting SWNS.

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