Fit and active Jay had a heart attack at 31. Statistically, he should be dead. Here’s why he isn’t

Michael Weaver 20 October 2020 21
Tom Cressy and Jay Johnstone

It’s no joke, but Tom Cressy and Jay Johnstone can share a laugh after Tom helped revive Jay from a sudden cardiac arrest. Photos: Throttle Media.

Jay Johnstone’s heart stopped beating for seven minutes as he lay unresponsive on the floor of a gym in Canberra. He is only alive today because of the quick-thinking of a volunteer with St John Ambulance who was able to restart the 31-year-old’s heart.

The life-defining moment came on 26 September last year.

“I remember feeling really short of breath and my heart was racing. We’d just been doing some interval sprints but my heart rate just kept spiralling higher and higher,” Jay tells Region Media.

“I started to faint and remember being in and out of consciousness and people around me were really concerned.”

One of the concerned people in the gym that day was Tom Cressy, a CPR-trained first responder with St John Ambulance, who noticed Jay lying in the recovery position.

“Jay was still responsive, then he became less responsive,” says Tom. “I was trying to feel his radial pulse but couldn’t. His pupils weren’t dilating. Within less than a minute, he was unconscious and his heart had stopped beating.”

READ ALSO: Defibs are popping up everywhere, here’s what you need to know about using one

Tom had someone call an ambulance, which had to be diverted from another job but was about 13 minutes away.

He asked someone to find a defibrillator machine but there wasn’t one in the gym. That person ran to a nearby Woolworths supermarket which was closed, but banged on the door hard enough to alert a store member to get their defibrillator.

“I know that every minute without a defib increases the chance of death by 10 per cent,” Tom says.

“I did CPR for about seven minutes and then was able to shock him with the defib for about three minutes. I was stuffed by that stage, so another guy took over. Then the ambos arrived.”

The training sessions he’d done with St John Ambulance in the previous six months gave him the confidence to know Jay was going to pull through.

It was all news to Jay. He remembers waking in an ambulance and being told he’d just had a sudden cardiac arrest. He also had a cracked rib from the CPR.

Tom Cressy and Jay Johnstone

Tom Cressy and Jay Johnstone are both volunteers with St John Ambulance.

“There was never a doubt in my mind that he was going to die, but that’s really naive when you look at the statistics of people who have heart attacks,” Tom says.

Those statistics are that 34,000 Australians and New Zealanders suffer a cardiac arrest out of hospital and 80 per cent of those people die. After 10 minutes without intervention, the damage caused by cardiac arrest is nearly always irreversible.

To say Jay is grateful is an understatement. He says he is close to making a complete recovery but will be on medication for the rest of his life. He has also had heart surgery to install an internal defibrillator to control the condition called ventricular fibrillation that occurs when the heart beats with rapid, erratic electrical impulses.

“For me, it’s kind of like when a car cylinder misfires and my heart skips a beat which then spirals into lights out. It’s not good,” says Jay.

“The ambulance was never going to save me, so without the quality CPR and the defib, I could have been left with a severe brain injury at best.”

Jay and Tom are now good mates – and Jay is also a volunteer with St John – and they can’t stress the importance of doing the training with St John or having a defibrillator close by.

“I was very unlucky but I was so lucky as well,” says Jay. “These sort of things shouldn’t happen, but it happens to one-in-five people in Australia, so if you work with 10 people, two of them could have a heart attack.”

World Restart a Heart Day was on 16 October. It’s a global initiative to raise awareness and educate the community about CPR and defibrillators in the community. To find out more, visit the Council of Ambulance Authorities, get in touch with St John Ambulance in Canberra, and watch the video with Tom and Jay about how to restart a heart.

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21 Responses to Fit and active Jay had a heart attack at 31. Statistically, he should be dead. Here’s why he isn’t
Sandra Cook Sandra Cook 7:39 pm 19 Oct 20

Shirley Hedditch - interesting article

    Shirley Hedditch Shirley Hedditch 8:25 pm 19 Oct 20

    Very interesting, he had help after 7 minutes. Mark Hedditch is a very lucky man I didn’t stop!

    Sandra Cook Sandra Cook 8:27 pm 19 Oct 20

    Shirley Hedditch absolutely!

    Shirley Hedditch Shirley Hedditch 8:28 pm 19 Oct 20

    Sandra Cook and only one busted rib......Mark has 15!

    Nicole Lawler Inveen Nicole Lawler Inveen 9:03 pm 19 Oct 20

    Shirley Hedditch oh good lord ... I hope Mark is ok now!

    Shirley Hedditch Shirley Hedditch 9:38 pm 19 Oct 20

    Nicole Lawler Inveen long recovery road ahead

Cathy Guevara Cathy Guevara 7:17 pm 19 Oct 20

Good work Thomas Cressy. Proud of u mate!!

John Meintjes John Meintjes 6:28 pm 19 Oct 20

Awesome brother

Emma Suzanne Sackett Emma Suzanne Sackett 6:17 pm 19 Oct 20

Glad to hear you're well again JJ!!! X

Netta Hartin Netta Hartin 6:00 pm 19 Oct 20

That is an amazing story, thank you Tom for saving my son's life, and thank you to Woolworths too. Thank you keep up the wonderful job.😃❤

Kylee Taylor Kylee Taylor 4:58 pm 19 Oct 20

Great job and defibs should be everywhere! BTW off duty paramedic is different to a St. John ambulance volunteer.

Isaac Janes Isaac Janes 4:06 pm 19 Oct 20

Well done!

Luke Gillies Luke Gillies 3:54 pm 19 Oct 20

Great work mate, what a story

Bec Cody Bec Cody 2:56 pm 19 Oct 20

Defibrillators should be mandatory in all workplaces

    Gai Wil Gai Wil 4:11 pm 19 Oct 20

    Bec Cody especially in Gyms!

    Alan Rose Alan Rose 4:44 pm 19 Oct 20

    Bec Cody at my work the HR lady said, haven’t needed one for 20 years. That’s their attitude. I hope she never needs one.

    Bec Cody Bec Cody 5:04 pm 19 Oct 20

    I think we need a concerted effort to ensure that it’s legislated for. If it’s part of legislation HR don’t have a chance.

    Martin Budden Martin Budden 5:47 pm 19 Oct 20

    Bec Cody presumably workplaces with only one employee would be exempt?

    JJ Johnstone JJ Johnstone 8:42 pm 19 Oct 20

    Adam Hughes you're wrong unfortunately

Astin Darcy Astin Darcy 2:31 pm 19 Oct 20

JJ Johnstone That's a good looking medic

    JJ Johnstone JJ Johnstone 2:56 pm 19 Oct 20

    Astin Darcy green has always been my colour 😂

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