My name is Tom Lonergan, I am 56-years-old and live in Marlborough. I have always led an active life. In my younger years I played rugby at a fairly high level and, apart from the odd muscular sports related injury, I had never been ill, let alone require hospital treatment. I had previously been diagnosed with high blood pressure, which I was and still am taking medication for, and this was under control.
My wife, Mary, and I had just returned from a very enjoyable break in North Wales. Whilst away on this break I started to feel a little groggy. I thought I may have picked up a virus of some sort, so we decided to go home a day early.
We arrived home late afternoon on 5 September 2016, and although I was still not feeling 100%, I was feeling better than I had previously. My memory from here becomes somewhat vague. I remember walking into our sitting room carrying a large glass of red wine (well I was still technically on holiday!) and apparently I just shot forward as if I had been pushed violently from behind. I hit a glass door and collapsed, not breathing. I had suffered a major cardiac arrest.
Mary immediately called 999. Fortunately there was an ambulance three minutes away. They arrived and quickly took the necessary steps to restart my heart and determined that I would need to be airlifted to hospital and would require the expertise of Wiltshire Air Ambulance. The helicopter arrived in eight minutes and Fred and Rocky, the air ambulance paramedics who attended me, undoubtedly saved my life.
After careful consideration these guys decided to airlift me to Southampton General Hospital which, whilst not the nearest, they identified as having the best facilities to suit my situation.
The journey in the air ambulance took just 12 minutes. It would have been far longer by road ambulance and it’s likely that if I had gone by road I would have arrested, which may have resulted in a different outcome. When I arrived at Southampton Hospital my heart arrested and the medical team had to shock me.
In summary, I was unconscious for almost a week. I underwent surgery which included the insertion of four stents. The registrar who operated on me commented that the air ambulance paramedics would have had some difficult dilemmas to overcome, as there were a number of possible reasons for my issues and a number of options open to them. Obviously, the fact that I am writing this now can attest to the fact that under really difficult circumstances they chose all the right options.
I returned to work approximately four months later, as area director for Jewson Builders Merchants, and subsequently had a pacemaker fittedand am well on the way to recovery. In December 2016, my sister-in-law, Diane, decided to raise funds for the Wiltshire Air Ambulance and Heartbeat House, another fantastic charity that supported Mary whilst I was in hospital. Diane cycled from our house in Marlborough to Southampton General Hospital. She raised a fantastic £4,600, which we donated 50/50 between these two great charities. I am currently looking at other possible opportunities to help support Wiltshire Air Ambulance, this lifesaving charity.
I recently visited Wiltshire Air Ambulance, where I was delighted to meet Fred, the paramedic who saved my life, Rob, one of the pilots, and Jill the media coordinator. The visit was enormously enjoyable, although somewhat emotional. It was a great experience and great to really appreciate the fantastic work all the guys do.