"Luckiest woman alive" saved by off-duty paramedic after suffering heart attack on running machine

Mark saves the day in gym drama

An off-duty NEAS paramedic has been hailed a hero after saving the life of a woman who suffered a cardiac arrest while on a running machine.

Mary Harris, from Easington Village, was training at her local gymnasium when she felt a sudden pain before collapsing on the treadmill.

Fortunately, NEAS Paramedic Mark Syson was also doing a work-out at the same time.

He spotted Mary crumpled on the treadmill - which was still running - and rushed over to administer CPR.

Having shouted for the receptionist to call an ambulance, Mark kept pumping Mary's chest, eventually reviving her.

Mary has since had an operation to replace her aortic valve, and is recuperating at home.

The surgeon who performed the operation described her as "the luckiest woman alive."

A few weeks after the incident in March, Mark was reunited with the woman he saved.

Mark said: "I was nervous and slightly embarrassed when meeting Mary and Richard for the first time since the incident. As a paramedic we don't normally meet our patients again or their families after they are taken to hospital. It was lovely to see both of them again and especially Mary who seemed in good spirits regardless of what had happened.

"It makes you feel very humble and I'm so pleased I was able to help Mary when she needed it. I wish Mary and her all family all the best."

Mary's husband Richard said: "There wasn't a dry eye in the house. Mary was overjoyed to meet up with Mark.  He's playing down his role but all the specialists have said unequivocally Mary would have died if he hadn't been there. 

"He felt strange meeting someone he has "worked on" because usually the patient goes into the hospital and that is that, however, I said to him you must feel good knowing you've saved a life and meeting that person again.

"I hope he gets some recognition for his actions because at this incident there was no resuscitator available, as there would be if he was attending an incident when on duty, it was just his prompt action and effective CPR that revived Mary. She's recovering well and very grateful to still be alive."

Mark was aware of Mary while he was training but - prior to her collapse - was concentrating on his own work-out. 

Richard said: "I arrived soon afterwards and the paramedics had just arrived in their ambulance and were working with Mark to keep her awake and give her reassurance, her lips and around her nose were still blue when I got there."

"Mark worked with the two paramedics in the back of the ambulance to ensure that all the necessary medication was administered and an ECG was taken and sent to James Cook hospital. 

"When the ambulance left to take her to Sunderland Royal hospital I asked Mark if she had had a pulse when he got to her and that is when he said her heart had stopped and he had performed around four sets of CPR before she gulped in air and revived. 

"We know the CPR had had to be vigorous because Mary's ribs are very sore with possible fractures but a small price to pay to be alive."

"On arrival at Sunderland Royal and after some tests were made I had the opportunity to speak with the consultant and he confirmed that she was "the luckiest lady alive because of the quick and effective actions of that young man who saved your life. The hospital also told me that only 3% of people who suffer cardiac arrest outside of hospital survive.

"Mary's father died age 49, his brother died aged 55 and their father died aged 52, all very suddenly without warning and none of them were revived because there was no expert help to perform effective CPR, Mary is 54.

"I know Mark is a trained professional and it could be argued that this is his day to day work, however, he had none of the specialist equipment available that he would have had in his daily duties and no other trained staff to assist him. 

"The consultant confirmed and my family feel that, but for Mary having Mark there on that day at that time, she would have gone the same way as her father, uncle and granddad. " 

Mary has now returned home having had a new, less invasive procedure to replace the aortic valve. 

Share this page

Copyright 2011 North East Ambulance Service Trust

Back to top

Enable Recite